An incredible amount of magical energy swelled up within Fran’s body the moment she muttered the word, after which her small frame began emitting jet black streaks of lighting.
Her magical energies ran rampant and kicked up a windstorm in her wake. Goldalfa stood within it, completely dumbfounded.
「A Black Catkin just… awakened…?」
Our opponent had forced our hand and made us pull out our trump card, one we’d only managed to obtain with Rumina’s help.
In other words, Fran had accomplished her goal. She had finally evolved.
Fran’s appearence hadn’t really changed much. She didn’t suddenly grow a coat of fur or have her skin change colours. She didn’t magically turn into an adult or anything like that either. The few changes that did occur were a lot more minute.
The first change lay in the colour of her eyes, which ended up dying themselves gold. The second and more significant change came with her tail, which she had currently straightened out and pointed towards the sky like a lightning rod. If one were to pay extra close attention, they’d be able to notice that her tail was no longer a pure shade of black. It instead now had alternating black and ash-grey stripes throughout.
That was it. Honestly, the outward changes caused by her awakening could be said to appear rather plain in comparison to the others we’d seen thus far.
Most of her changes had instead been directed within, and boy, were those changes massive.
Her Agility and Magic stats had both risen by an entire 300. The wounds she’d suffered had healed, and she’d instantly recovered all her magical energy.
But that wasn’t all.
The most terrifying change was the one that’d occured to the skill she’d gained upon evolving.
「Brilliant Lightning Rush.」
Fran’s Brilliant Lightning Rush was an even more powerful version of the Lightning Rush skill Rumina had showed us upon our first encounter.
It was already a powerful skill under normal circumstances, as it provided or bolstered the levels of the Strength Boost, Agility Boost, Super Fast Reflexes, Lightning Element Bestowal, Lightning Boost, Lightning Damage Nullification, and Lightning Magic skills.
To reiterate, using Awakening made this skill even more powerful, namely by doubling all its effects.
「Would you look at that ladies and gentlemen!? Fran has awakened! It appears she’s got the rarer type of awakening, the one that doesn’t particularly change one’s appearance, but you can really feel a sense of majesty from the black lightning radiating off her body!」
If Fran had just evolved, she would’ve been like Rumina. The lightning emanating off her body would’ve been blue and not black.
But it wasn’t.
Fran hadn’t evolved into a mere Black Tigerkin. She’d instead become a creature spoken of only in legends, a Black Heavenly Tigerkin.
「Apparently Black Catkin being unable to evolve is nothing but just a load of bogus!」
The caster’s reaction was pretty much the same as most of the other humans present. He was surprised, but that was it. As far as he was concerned, there was much more interest to be in had in how much stronger Fran had gotten than the fact that she’d actually evolved.
It was a reaction that completely failed to capture the emotions of any and all of the Beastkin that happened to be present.
Goldalfa seemed to have totally forgotten that he was in the midst of a duel. His stance loosened, and he simply stood staring with his mouth gaping wide open. He was so shocked by what he’d just witnessed that he was unable to put his thoughts into words.
Directing my gaze over to the VIP area allowed me to see the Beast Lord, who was supposed to be calmly sitting in his chair, leaning on the railings and staring a hole straight into the stadium. Roche, who’d been standing by beside him, was practically sharing Goldalfa’s expression; he was staring at her completely dumbfounded.
「A Black Heavenly Tiger?」
Goldalfa’s mind had finally started to move again, but he was still clearly shaken, as his voice was dry and raspy.
「To think that I would end up facing off against none other than one of the legendary tribe’s members…」
His words were but mutters under his breath.
「But… how did I not notice it till just now…?」
Fran took advantage of the fact that he was wide open and initiated an assault.
To Goldalfa, it looked as if Fran had flat out vanished, but in truth, all she’d done was dash up to him. The Black Lightning within and all around her pierced right through the God-tier blacksmith made armour he was wearing and began scorching his flesh.
Awakening had made Fran ridiculously powerful.
It had given her enough speed to circumvent Goldalfa’s super fast reflexes and enough power to completely shatter his defenses.
Fran dashed around him and continued delivering blow after blow.
From this, one could observe that the Brilliant Lightning Rush skill’s power came not only from its sheer speed, but also its ability to allow incredibly sharp turns.
The maneuvers we were pulling off were difficult even at much lower speeds. The laws of physics would get in the way and disallow us from actualizing our ideas.
But the skill made it so that they didn’t apply; engraving the core attributes of the lightning element into her body had allowed her to temporarily overcome them.
Our actions were much like those of Zefmate’s. We assaulted our opponent while making use of our ability to move around at exceedingly high speeds.
That said, the actual resulting attacks couldn’t really be compared to one another, as Fran far exceeded Zefmate in all three of power, speed, and turn rate.
Thinking about Zefmate made me realize something, something that seemed to explain why Blue Catkin hated Black Catkin as much as they did. It must’ve been because of this, because evolved Black Catkin could do everything evolved Blue Catkin could, but better.
「H-How incredible! I can’t even tell what’s going on! Fran’s disappeared, and seemingly started attacking Goldalfa with a series of bands of black light! I can only tell he’s getting hit because he keeps groaning in pain!」
It was as the caster commented. Each of Fran’s movements was leaving a trail of black light in its wake. The sheer number of them almost made it seem like there was a giant dark dome around the rhinokin.
Loud metallic clangs rang throughout the arena as Fran smashed me into Goldalfa’s Phoenix Armour over and over again. The damage we inflicted onto the armour was more or less completely nulled, as it regenerated at a rate far faster than we could damage it. However, that only applied to the armour, and not Goldalfa himself. His flesh wasn’t able to recover quickly enough from our consecutive strikes; we were managing to stack up damage on him.
It was something that couldn’t be helped, as the Black Lightning would course throughout his body each and every single time he tanked one of Fran’s strikes.
We managed to hurt him so badly in just the span of a few seconds that he ended up completely giving up on defense. Instead, he swung his axe at us before desperately launching shockwave in all directions. It seemed to be an action he’d done in hopes of hitting us so he could attempt to make a comeback.
But it was too slow. Fran dodged it with ease by simply lowering her stance to avoid the incoming axe, an action that served to evidence that she’d totally seem him through.
Likewise, she dealt with the shockwave with ease as well; all she needed to do to neutralize it was deploy a Perfect Barrier with her full power. The sheer amount of magical energy she put into the act caused the barrier to be unable to last for more than just an instant, but that was all she needed. She didn’t have any issues timing it well enough to completely negate Goldalfa’s attack.
Her relentless assault continued despite his struggles.
The short exchange of blows caused Goldalfa to realize that it was no longer possible for him to hit Fran, and so, he folded his arms and shrank the size of his frame as much as he could while making sure he protected his head. The stance almost seemed to resemble the kind one would take after accidentally ramming one’s face into something on accident and recoiling in pain, but, it wasn’t actually one that illustrated a will to surrender. In fact, it was something he’d done in order to win — he’d completely abandoned even the notion of attacking and instead focused all his resources on his defenses.
『Damn it, that’s one of the Beast Lord’s direct subordinates for you! He knows exactly what our weakness is!』
Brilliant Lightning Rush was an incredible skill, but as one could expect, it naturally came with a cost. It placed an abnormally large burden on Fran’s body, and constantly ate away at both her health and mana. It didn’t require as much compensation as something like Latent Potential Release, but again, it wasn’t what I could call risk free.
Rumina had told us that all of the Ten Original Tribes in fact had their innate skills function in a similar manner. The power of the Divine Beast was far too great for a mere Beastkin to sustain and would lead to death if left unchecked, hence why the ability was instantiated in the form of a toggleable skill as opposed to simply granted permanently.
The Beast Lord had naturally awakened to one of the Ten Original Powers, and thus, there was no way Goldalfa, as one of his guards, would be able to go without knowing about its weaknesses. He knew that using the skill was effectively the same thing as slowly killing oneself, hence why he’d chosen to attempt to stall Fran out.
Goldalfa didn’t have that much health left, but Fran had yet to show any sign of letting up.
Brilliant Lightning Rush was definitely a risky skill to use, and not something one could keep up for too long.
Or at least that’s how things would’ve been under normal circumstances.
Fran’s case, our case, wasn’t like any other. Fran’s mana pool wasn’t just limited by her own mana. She could draw from mine should she need it. I was also capable of healing her and topping her health off whenever.
As a result, we were able to sustain the skill for far longer than Goldalfa expected.
「How are you… still goingarrgh!?」
That said, it wasn’t like we had any real extra breathing space. The rate at which Fran’s HP was draining was steadily increasing. We’d never kept the skill going for any extended period of time, so we only now learned that its resource consumption would gradually increase with the duration for which we sustained it.
Goldalfa’s HP dropped to less than 10% of its total value.
All we needed to finish him was just one last push, one that was rather difficult for us to pull off. Fran’s HP had started dropping so quickly that I needed to heal her every couple seconds.
It was something that she herself had noticed as well.
（Master, will end now!）
It seemed that we could’ve actually just deactivated the skill and fought him normally from here on out. In fact, that was probably the better option to take if we just wanted to go for the win.
But Fran didn’t.
She wanted to win through the use of her power as a Black Heavenly Tigerkin in order to put her tribe’s pride and sheer willpower on display.
That was simply a choice that she decided to make, a choice she’d long set in stone.
（Will hit with more powerful attack.）
『You sure? There really isn’t enough room for that here.』
『You really sure?』
『Well, if you say so… I’ll focus on defense.』
『Urushi, go hit him once real quick then run the hell away.』
Urushi did exactly as we instructed and harassed Goldalfa a bit by suddenly jumping out of his shadows, hitting him once, and jumping back in before teleporting into the barrier that protected the tournament’s spectators.
Fran immediately shouted the name of an incredibly powerful attack the moment she verified that he’d retreated to safety.
「Black Lightning Advent!」
A jet black thunderbolt as wide as a drum of liquid erupted from Fran’s extended palm and swallowed Goldalfa whole before detonating into a massive electrical explosion.
Our eardrums nearly bursted as the sound waves created by the attack assaulted them.
I protected Fran by activating Perfect barrier, but the blast was far too powerful for that alone to hold it back. The sheer resulting force sent Fran flying into the barrier that protected the audience. To it, her mass was about as insignificant as that of a single leaf. Dust assaulted our bodies as hundreds upon hundreds of pebbles flew at us faster than would bullets. A wave of heat then rammed its way into us, one so hot it would’ve turned Fran to ash had she been unprotected.
『Shit! We’re eating this much recoil even though I put up a goddamn barrier!?』
Countless bolts of lightning raged through the arena and writhed within it as would a swarm of dragons, an assault Fran herself only managed to survive due to her Lightning Damage Nullification skill. I’d protected myself with a barrier, so I managed to get away with just a minimal bit of damage.
（Went bit overboard.）
Whaddya mean a bit… Is what I would’ve liked to say had I been sure that our strike had managed to finish Goldalfa off.
The audience began to stir as the attack’s after effects finally started to fade.
There was a massive crater where Goldalfa had been standing just moments ago. The stage itself had already gotten pretty messed up because of all the backs and forths the two fighters had experienced, but what Fran had just done was on a whole ‘nother scale. She’d completely obliterated over 70% of the arena.
Goldalfa was at the crater’s center, his body reduced to nothing but a mangled carcass. He was on both knees, his head hanging forward. His body didn’t seem to twitch even in the slightest.
We couldn’t see him all that well because the sheer amount of heat caused by Fran’s attack had caused his surroundings to distort. The dirt around him had been raised to such a temperature that it’d even transformed into red-hot glass. The Rhinokin’s prided Phoenix Armour was crumbling, with half of it already gone. It seemed to have been damaged so badly that it’d become unable to repair itself. All visible parts of his body had long been turned to charcoal. I was no longer able to see the thing that had formerly been Goldalfa as a entity that bore life.
『Oh god damn it Fran! You’re not supposed to say that, you’re totally jinxing it right now!』
Fortunately, my idiotic worries were needless. The pillars placed around the arena began to glow, and seemed to cause Goldalfa’s remains to do the same.
The mangled corpse was returned to its former state after about ten seconds. His body was once again in perfect shape. It was like he’d never been wounded to begin with.
Wait, so… does that mean it’s over…?
「And it looks like the Cradle of Time has activated, meaning Goldalfa has lost the round by meeting his demise! Ladies and gentlemen, our winner today is none other than Fran, The Magic Sword Girl!」