First thing was first. Arcadia could not afford to be taken by surprise again. Surprise was her forte after all, it wouldn't do to just hand that advantage over to anything else that might be watching her in this strange spirit mirror world of the island.
The young, pale blonde slayer refracted the light around her, so that the image of her appeared a few meters ahead of where she really was. She would walk along a few minutes more, keeping an eye out for any sign of this Kyuken.
Somewhere along the way, a familiar small blob of inky darkness formed in the air ahead of her. It was right where her displaced image's face and eyes were. Arcadia didn't have time to think about it because two giant columns of glacial ice pounded right through her image less than a second later.
This was too much to be a coincidence, someone was definitely using her own spells against her. Not only that, they were using them faster than she ever could. There was no way she could ever conjure two columns of ice at once like that. Figuring out who would have to wait. Now that her image had been exposed as a decoy, she would be a sitting duck.
To keep the principle of uncertainty on her side, she reached into her magic power. She formed some of it into her own blob of inky darkness, this one big enough to envelop the bases of the twin ice columns stuck into the ground ahead of her. Arcadia raced on out of her newly created blob darkness, fifteen shadow clones of herself racing right on out with her in all other directions.
Not so far off in the trees she heard, what sounded like her own voice start to bicker with another two voices? She couldn't be sure, but voices sounded a lot like herself, but not quite the same either. There was something a tiny bit different each one. #1
: "Great! Now we don't know which one is the real one!."#2
: "What're you yelling at me for?! I'm not the one who threw a wimpy little inky blob instead of throwing an ice column like the rest of us!"#3
: "It's not like that woulda done any good, that obviously wasn't the real her we hit anyway. Besides I don't see why we havta hurt her."
It was then that a small army of Arcadias filtered out of the trees. About fifty in all. If you counted Aracadia's own fifteen shadow copies plus herself, there were about sixty-six Arcadias gathered around that small clearing.
The real Arcadia knew trying to guess which if any of the fifty other copies might also be real of any of them would only give herself away. She knew, because that's how she would flush out who to target. The one true Arcadia and her shadow clones took off again, scattering from the clearing completely. Arcadia added five more shadow clones to leave her lingering blob of inky darkness for good measure. Those shadow clones joined the rest in scattering to the trees. #2
: "Don't let your clones just stand there! Go get them!"#1
: "Don't tell me what to do! But oh yeah, I see what ya mean. We can use our clones to see which of her is the real one. Hey! You better send your clones too!"#3
: "I guess that wouldn't really hurt her."
Arcadia focused magic power out into each of her hands and feet. The frosty chill in each of her limbs allowed her skin to freeze and unfreeze to a tree the slayer had chosen to climb. She had each of her shadow clones also climb a different tree of their own. The hostile clones were in hot pursuit.
Being made of semi-solid shadowstuff, the most any shadow clone could do was gently tap Arcadia. Anything harder than that and the clone would disperse back into the shadows it came from, but that was the idea. Any Arcadia the hostile clones attacked that was also a clone, would mean the two shadow clones would pass harmlessly through each other. Only the real Arcadia would disperse a shadow clone back into shadow, revealing her location in the process.
Arcadia wasn't about to give her pursuers another free shot at her. Not if she could help it. At least, not before she could find her pursuers too. She sprouted a pair of dragon-like wings made entirely from pure white hoarfrost from her back. She leapt from from tree to tree, gliding between gaps too wide to jump. Her shadow clones all did the same, all playing the avoidance game with the hostile clones chasing them. It created a popcorn effect up in the canopy of Arcadias all leaping and gliding from different trees. All either leading a chase or pursuing one.
The young slayer knew she couldn't keep this chase up. Her pursuers had numbers on their side, so it was only a matter of time before one of the hostile clones might fly into her.
Lucky for her, the pursuers behind the hostile shadow clones were an argumentative sort. Following their voices helped her home in on their direction. She began to pick out possible scents too. With some luck, skillful aerobatics and acrobatics to avoid the maelstrom of shadow play around her, she landed in a tree overlooking the only three Arcadias still on the ground.
These Arcadias must be more than shadow of they could cast her spells, plus they must've smelled her. Not long after she landed in the tree above them, all three looked straight up at her. That instant all the hostile shadow clones dissipated back into shadow, so the true Arcadia allowed hers to slip back to shadow too. There was no use or need for them now that the real Arcadia and her three doppelgangers were all quite aware of where each other were.
Arcadia narrowed her deep green eyes down at the imposters, and two them narrowed their deep green faerie gaze right back. The third imposter seemed to be the one that had been arguing against this fight in first place. She seemed more anxious to the true Arcadia, now that they were all face to face.
Appealing to the third imposter might be the real Arcadia's only option here. She was badly out numbered if this was coming down to a straight up fight. Maybe Arcadia could get the third imposter to switch sides or help her convince the other imposters that there was no reason to fight.
The true Arcadia called down to the third imposter, "Hey! Why do you let these two tell you what to do? If you don't want to fight, then we don't have to."
Arcadia shifted her gaze to the other two imposters, "There's no reason for us to fight either. We don't have to do this."#1
: "Eh! Don't listen to her! She just knows how badly she gonna lose!"
The third imposter began tear and choke up, #3
: "No! I won't! I won't fight her! She's not my enemy!"#2
: "Then you're our enemy!"
The two more aggressive imposters turned on the third, each scoring the first couple punches. The true Arcadia formed five icy darts one her left hand, one per finger. She flung them all at the nearest aggro imposter, three striking the target imposter in the back. Arcadia had formed five more icy darts on her right hand and flung them all at the other aggro imposter. Only two of those struck true.
The third imposter formed an icy blade on one arm, striking back at her attackers. Her blade slice through the most grievously injured aggro imposter, returning it to its previous powerless spirit form. It sped off in annoyed little bob and weave. The third imposter then brought her icy blade up just in time to block one blow from the remaining aggro imposter, but another slipped past her guard.
Arcadia had formed an icy blade of her own, and had leapt from the tree. One leg extended, Arcadia folded in her hoarfrost dragon wings to knock the last aggro imposter to the ground with her flying kick. The true young slayer immediately followed with a slice of her icy blade, returning the last aggro imposter to spirit form as well.
Standing straight, Arcadia caught her breath, and turned to face the third imposter who was back in tears. The real Arcadia was compelled to offer a hug.
The third imposter accepted the offered hug and stammered, (#3
) "I-I'm sorry."
Arcadia smiled softly, squeezing gently to offer a little extra comfort, "I know. I'm sorry too."
The third and last imposter slowly calmed and was finally able to voluntarily return to spirit form. Arcadia, once again the only Arcadia around sighed in relief, but also dried her own eyes. She gladly went on her way.
Stage 2 Word Count: 1487
Total Exam Word Count: 2373/1500
Magic Power: 170Spells
Refraction - Duration 1/1
Gloom - Duration 1/2
Shadow Puppets - Duration 1/3
Ice Dragon Glacier Geckowalk - Duration 1/3
Ice Dragon Wings - Duration 1/1
Ice Dragon Frozen Claws - Duration 1/2
Ice Dragon Frosty Blade - Duration 1/3