‘The matches for the first round are as follow: Felaris will fight Haka while Ilami will face Seya,’ Mr. Haifei said as he stood in front of Felaris and other top Fighter students.
As expected, Felaris thought.
She couldn’t possibly be facing Seya; they knew each other’s fighting style too well. She knew how Haka and Ilami fight, but not to the extend where she could prepare how to counter them right of the bat. She smiled. This would be interesting. The unpredictability of the Test just made her more excited to win, not to mention her parents had made it clear she had to win. Especially against Ilami, a member of House XieZhi should she face her at the final round.
She was confident though that Seya wouldn’t show mercy to Ilami, no matter how much she liked the silver-haired girl. That was Seya for you – as expected from a member of House Lilia. She looked around and saw the crowd circled the field, sitting on elevated benches that made it look like the field was turned to a gladiatorium. She recognized Gael and Aleveri among them.
Speaking of crushes – did Haka know about Gael’s feelings to him? It was obvious to her – perhaps spending time with Seya and Veris made her notice these things. Maybe Gael’s presence would affect Haka’s performance, assuming the latter caught up to what was happening. If their friendship was any indication, she suspected Haka harbored the same feeling as Gael’s, but he didn’t know it – wasn’t sure of it – yet. Veris had told her about the time he had used to spend with Gael. If Haka knew that, it was only a matter of time before he decided he wanted to end his friendship with Gael or bring it to the next level.
It didn’t matter now. She had to focus on Haka.
The matches for the first round were held simultaneously and side to side. Each match took half of the field with no opaque barrier between them, which could certainly distract her. Guided by Mr. Haifei, she took her position while Haka stood in front of her. Mr. Haifei stood between them, checking they were far enough from each other, before he retreated to the side.
‘The rules are simple. You may use magic, but only Natural magic. Your challenge is to beat your opponent; any attempt to achieve result beyond that will disqualify you automatically. You may use weapons, but only those that you learn in the class. If neither one of you concedes after half an hour, the judges -’ he nodded to Venaria, Kestari and Mrs. Reva – another teacher specialized in combat – sitting among the audience ‘- will choose the winner.’ He nodded and announced, ‘You may start.’
Felaris set up her stance immediately. Haka watched her with a calm expression and uttered something. Parts of the field detached themselves from it and floated. Felaris had heard about this – Haka rarely showed it anyone, but when he did, the students who saw it spread rumors. They said once his spell was complete, the battlefield would favor him one hundred percent. She was too focused on what she was going to do to expect this from him. It was too late to disrupt the spell – stones floated around them, their bases flat.
Without any warning, Haka jumped onto one of the stones before hopping to the other. He did effortlessly, as though the stones were just a road for him. Felaris’s focus was entirely directed to him, because if it wasn’t, it would take her a few seconds to identify his current position, and when in a battle, even seconds were precious gold.
She was so focus on getting familiar to his movement when he suddenly jumped at her as if she was one of the stepping stones. The pressure of his foot on her chest pushed her to the ground hard. She gritted her teeth, enduring the pain that struck her back. She should’ve taken account the time when Haka would attack.
Haka stood at a stepping stone and looked at her. His calm posture was infuriating. It was as if he knew from the beginning she stood no chance against him.
Felaris stood, and charged at him. She uttered a spell as she ran, forming two spherical winds around her hands like gloves. Fighting using weapon was useless in this fighting environment. She had to avoid all those floating stones that were in her way. When she reached him, she uttered a quick spell to make an air burst under her feet, pushing her to the air and neared him. Haka punched her in the stomach with his earth-covered hand before she could land a blow, throwing her to the ground.
‘You can’t touch me,’ Haka whispered. ‘You can’t adapt to the battle environment that I’ve made. Your loss is guaranteed from the start.’
How dare him! Felaris shouted internally.
She wasn’t stupid; he was right. But to hear from him word by word… it enraged her. She didn’t spend years training to fight to be beaten without a sweat. Her efforts all this time weren’t for her to lose. She wouldn’t accept that. Haka continued watching her with half-opened eyes, as if he was pitying her. The crowd had started to boo at her and cheer for Haka, and the noise made her blood boil more.
Planning a careful strategy wouldn’t work in this battle. She had to do something else, something drastic. Again, she observed the floating stones surrounding them, reminding her this was Haka’s stage, not hers. Okay, then. She would just have to destroy them. All of them. Taking advantage of Haka’s lack of action, she held up her hand and made a rotation gesture. Wind whirled around her, growing larger and longer as she spun.
Haka’s eyes widened as he watched. He started to move towards her, stepping on the floating stones. He made hand gestures, instructing the rest of the stones to attack her, but they were repelled by the strong current of wind now enveloping her. She smiled. This spell might’ve used up all of her energy, but she didn’t care if it was worth it.
She let her hands stayed still above her at one point, before releasing them. The whirlwind exploded, sending shock waves around the battle area. It threw the stones away from both of them, so far that some of them went to the stunned audience. They yelled and scream as the stones hurt them. She was sure they weren’t hurt much, but the sound they made prompted her to smile.
And then she knelt. Involuntarily. Exhaustion rushed into her body, her breathing shortening as she stared at the ground. She could still fight. She didn’t use up all of her energy. She blinked for a few times before looking up to see Haka.
But Haka wasn’t there.
She gasped as her instinct tingled, turning back just enough to see him sending his punch at her chest. She managed to block it with her arms, but the strength behind it was enough to throw her back a few meters away. That was impossible. His attack wasn’t enhanced by magic and yet, she knew he could only do this to her with magic. There was no other way. Unless… No. It couldn’t be. She stood up and readied her sword. She had energy enough to get one last attack in. if she tried to prolong the fight, she would lose just by being tired. Haka on the other hand looked like he didn’t even sweat. That was impossible.
With a burst of speed, Felaris let out a war cry and charged at him. She created wheels of wind on her feet to help her run faster, reading her sword – imbued with enveloping wind – for the final strike. After she closed the distance between them, she raised her sword and struck.
Haka stopped it with his hands pressing it from the sides.
‘No,’ she whispered and looked at Haka, too stunned by his feat to do anything else.
His eyes flashed red.