Chapter 1652 - Players And Pawns (Part 2)
"Correct." Syrook nodded. "I can't let my subjects see you when you look like a beaten mutt. Now go and don't forget who holds the leash."
Military camp outside of Zeska, Lith's tent.
Right after King Meron had ended the call, Lith had given instructions to his seconds in command about how to arrange the troops and prepare the battlefield while he rested.
He needed eight hours of sleep to reset Invigoration's effects but what worried him the most was the condition of his life force and Solus's. Even though she had kept her human form briefly, it had been enough to weaken her.
As for Lith, he wanted to be capable of using the pocket dimension and Origin Flames to ensure his victory no matter what cards Quaron had in his sleeve. In theory, there was no way that a fake human mage could beat an Awakened Tiamat in human form, but there was too much on the line to risk underestimating his opponent.
'Too many things don't add up.' He thought while using his breathing skill, Demon Grasp, to recover his strength and refine his mana core.
'The north was filled with angry people that would eat a foreigner alive to survive winter, but not even the most remote village ever rebelled. On top of that, no one seemed scared by the presence of my battalion, they only feared me after I displayed my strength.
'Last but not least, I have no idea what part this so-called god played in all this and if they are going to meddle during my fight with their champion. The more I think about this place the more I feel like a pawn on a chessboard of which I can only see my own square.'
'Don't worry too much.' Solus said to cheer him up. 'I'm already back to my full strength and even if Quaron is an Awakened, you still have the advantage of surprise. Now go to sleep. There are two days left until the deadline and plenty of time to practice.'
King Meron's words about the fate of his family in the case Lith failed the mission still echoed in his mind. It wasn't the first time that he had considered leaving the Kingdom but never before had his personal life been at stake.
He loved his house in Lutia with all of his heart. Not only was it linked to most of the happiest moments of his life on Mogar but it was also the only place that his parents could call home.
It was Raaz's ancestral house and the place where Elina had given birth to their children. Losing it like that would break their hearts.
Lith had trouble falling asleep and it seemed to him to have just closed his eyes when the ruckus outside woke him up.
"Face me if you dare, Verhen!" A deep manly voice roared like thunder with enough strength to make the edges of the tent flap. "You wanted to see me and here I am. Are you brave enough to step forward or are you going to hide behind your army like a coward?"
"I mean no disrespect by stating the obvious but Quaron has arrived, sir." Captain Ahria said, stepping inside Lith's tent as soon as she received permission to.
"What a smart son of a bitch." Lith yawned while watching at the orange light of the sun that still barely peeked at the horizon. "He showed up at dawn to catch me off guard while my body is still stiff and my mind numb from the sleep."
"There's no rush, sir. Wash your face while I have a strong tea prepared for you." Ahria said.
"If you can't even respect the terms of your own challenge, then I'll assume that you are just wasting my time. Either you fight now or never, Verhen." Quaron said.
"Don't fall for his provocation and ignore him, sir. His tactic is as childish as it's stupid." Ahria prepared a basin filled with fresh water and a towel.
"I can't." Lith replied. "Remember what the King said. This is a battle of honor to impress the locals. If I stall for time and Quaron claims his victory it doesn't matter what the terms were, only that the people of Zeska will consider his words true.
"At that point, no one will care about the outcome of the fight and our mission will be as good as failed."
Ahria tried to argue with that logic but no words came to her mouth. There was no point in defeating Quaron if Lith ended up losing the hearts of the people. He would just look like a violent bully and Zeska would never surrender.
"Here I am, jackass. No need to be so loud." Lith walked out of his tent while still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and scratching a bitch of an itch on his left ass cheek.
"I'm sorry. Did I interrupt your beauty sleep?" Unlike the two mages' voices, the laughter of the people that filled Zeska's battlements to the brim wasn't magically amplified.
Yet it could be clearly heard from miles away.
Most of the hilarity didn't ensue from the joke but from the comparison between the two contestants.
Quaron floated high in the sky, with the sun on his back shining over his armor. A gentle breeze ruffled his perfect hair and his mantle, making him look like a hero straight out of a bard tale.
His eyes brimmed with confidence and his smile made many hearts flutter.
Lith instead, dragged his feet on the ground and his capeless black armor made him look like a puddle of tar from a distance. He had disheveled hair and bleary eyes, giving him the look of a man that either had partied until late or had recently become a father.
"You sure did, so I'm going to go back to bed as soon as I'm done kicking your ass." Lith's words echoed throughout the valley, making the laughter stop.
There was no arrogance or mockery in his voice. He spoke amid yawns with a deadpan tone as if he was ordering breakfast.
"Let's set a few ground rules so that no one can complain about the outcome, shall we? We'll fight one on one, without any external help of any kind. We can use anything we have on ourselves or that's stored in our respective dimensional items.
"We can also exploit the environment, such as the arrays of Zeska and everything that lay in our surroundings. The first one to die loses. Deal?" Lith extended his right hand to the sky, generating an identical hard-light construct in front of his opponent.
"Deal. The people of the free country of Nestrar are our witness." Quaron promptly shook it while raising his left fist in the air to proclaim his imminent victory. "We are writing a page of history that will change the Garlen continent forever!"
"More like a footnote." Lith said, ignoring the booming cheers coming from Zeska. "And a short one about what a dumbass you were at that. Let's fight!"
Air magic amplified the last two words enough for everyone to hear them.. Only then did the traitorous Ranger and his followers notice that the construct had not faded.