Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
It took several days for Asha’s body to become fully used to the new rhythm. Day and night mixed up in her head until her thoughts were neither light, nor dark, but she soon fell into a groove. It seemed that Yuni adapted to the change more more quickly. Asha had found that her companion enjoyed variety and did not need the same routine that Asha thrived on.
The closer they got to the border, the more Yuni seemed to thrum with energy. With every passing day, she became more restless. She went through bouts of barely making a sound at all, to periods in which Asha started to curse the sound of Yuni’s very voice until she finally, inevitably, went hoarse.
The consequence of this quiet rhythm was complacency.
A bad feeling cast a shadow over Asha like a stormcloud. She had never taken any stock in the belief that mages had some sort of sixth sense, but she was seriously reconsidering her disbelief. She grabbed Yuni’s upper arm, leaning close to her ear. “I feel like we’re being followed. Don’t panic, just walk like normal, but be ready in case something happens.”
Asha rarely practiced magic while moving. At school, she had learned how for a combat magic course, but she had always been more interested in developing spells rather than using them to incapacitate or hurt others.
Eyes pointed straight ahead, she began counting the beat of her steps, keeping them steady, grounded. She matched her breaths to the thud of her feet and spread her mind across the landscape, drawing invisible energy into herself.
Flicking her eyes to the side, she caught a glimpse of black. An earth-shaking crack rang across the plains and the black figure blinked into non-existence. A split second later, the figure reappeared, and Asha found her feet rooted to the ground. From underneath the mage’s hood, an apelike face peered out. Bushy eyebrows sprouted from a protruding brow, and the mage grinned sadistically. Using the magic she had stored inside her, she overpowered the spell to keep her in place.
Her stomach dropped when she remembered Yuni. Looking wildly around, she shouted, “Yuni!” Finally, she spotted her, writhing in the grip of another black cloaked mage, mouth shut, but eyes wide. Asha swore out loud; they must have been blocking magic on her, but it was still worth a shot. Reaching out with her mind, she found that it was true. With Asha unable to include Yuni in her spells, there was no way to teleport.
When she tried to move again, her feet were once more rooted to the spot. With a desperate shout, Asha forced the little energy she had left outward, breaking the hold once more. In a flurry of swirling black cloak, Asha whirled around to face her attacker, his sneering ape-like face taunting her. As quickly as she was able, she siphoned the energy from the grass around her, all of it falling to the ground as black ashes.
Thrusting out the energy, she manipulated the air; an unnatural gale throwing her assailant backward. Using the time she bought, she reached out with her mind, finding the other mage’s energy on lockdown. Despite his appearance, the man’s mind was strong. Very strong.
Clenching her jaw, she began slowly snaking the remnants of the energy she used for the wind into bonds to hold the first mage while she dealt with the second.
While the block on Yuni meant that magic couldn’t directly affect her body, outside forces manipulated by magic could still affect her.
A blow to her cheek caught her by surprise. The ape-like man was sitting up, while stones floated around him. A hot trickle of blood ran down Asha’s cheek, resting in the corner of her mouth. Wiping it away with a hand, she began to wrestle for control of the stones in the air, all of them frantically wobbling in the air. With a final burst of energy supplemented by her own, she wrested control of the rocks and aimed every single one of them at the man. Not skipping a beat, Asha fired each stone at the man’s head, and he dropped like the stones that felled him.
She couldn’t spare a moment to assess the man’s condition. Breaking into a sprint, she refilled her stores of energy, more grass disintegrating around her. Blood from the laceration on her cheek trickled into her open, panting mouth, and she copied her earlier trick, using a gust of wind to blow Yuni’s captor back. She swore when her gale was nullified by the other mage. In a panic, she took a wild chance.
It paid off.
The other mage hadn’t protected herself like she had Yuni; it took most of Asha’s stored energy to pull her arms open wide, but she succeeded in freeing Yuni. Startled, the mage loosened her magical grip on Yuni as well as her corporeal hold.
They were free. They were finally free. Asha began the process of restocking her energy reserves, but she was stopped in her tracks by a thunderous boom. Black spots bloomed in her eyes and an incessant ringing in her ears, made everything feel far away. Asha swayed on her feet, but managed to stay upright. Her head ached. Her brain felt like it was too big for her skull. Everything felt too damn warm.
The ringing in her ears did not subside, but she could faintly hear shouting. The spots swimming in her vision did not dissipate, but she could still see Yuni grappling with one of the mages. Asha pulled in energy. More energy than she had ever used before. For the first time in her life, she did not care where it came from. Just not Yuni.
Yuni’s fist met the face of one of the mages. She began to be dragged down by an invisible force.
A noiseless boom echoed across the plains. The ringing became louder, and the spots took over her vision completely.