Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
It was the first time the Asa siblings had ever been separated at all. Jennifer had to request a helicopter pick-up for Ren, so Cecilia was the first to depart. Despite the sibling’s decision, Ren could not ignore the tight grip on his heart when Cecilia got into the car with Jennifer. He chased after them, trying to keep up with the vehicle so that Cecilia remained in his sight until he could no longer keep up. There she went, his baby sister that he cared for since the day she was born. This was for the best though. Cecilia’s regeneration magic was not something she needed to be proficient in. As such, going to the academy to learn about her magic would have been a waste. The only way she can truly further develop her abilities would be to travel with the original founder of Ki. His years of theory crafting were finally rewarded.
What surprised Ren most was the person that came to escort him. Professor Kaminari Kamui, the principal of Fortissimum Magia, the man in charge of Earth’s stand against the prophesied apocalypse. The only reason he even recognized his name was because Jennifer said it once at their meeting. Not only was his name Japanese, but also his appearance. It was rare to find someone that had such a strong physical affinity to their heritage. In this day and age, everyone was a mix of everything, so ethnicity was often treated as a playful joke.
Whatever Jennifer wrote in her request for Ren’s pick-up, it left Prof. Kamui with huge expectations. Aside from a quick introduction, the first thing Prof. Kamui did was bombard him with a stack of paper. It was a list of all the students regarding their personal information, magic, and activities. Ren ignored it for the school agenda, he was more interested in the daily schedule that Prof. Kamui organized. It was your ordinary public school schedule with different periods for different subjects. Except for one thing…
The Ten Commandments.
As far as Ren knew, the ten commandments were a religious set of principles given to Moses by God. Apparently Prof. Kamui decided to use it as titles for the top ten strongest students in the school. They possessed almost as much freedom and power as the principal. He understood the purpose of this. It was a nice incentive to push students to learn how to use their magic better. On top of that, your words and actions are basically law. With the freedom and power to do as you wish, nobody could defy you. The only way to obtain that life of indulgence was to fight for it. In order to protect their freedom, they need to constantly get stronger.
According to the list, the Ten Commandments went unchanged for the past three years. There seemed to be a bit of a power struggle at the beginning, but that was it.
“What happened here?” Ren pointed at the roster.
“What do you mean?” Asked Prof. Kamui.
“As in, why were there no changes in the past three years?“
“Ah, that… that’s, uh…”
Ren took a second look at the roster since Prof. Kamui’s tongue played twister. More specifically, the person who sat at the top of the academy- Amy Michelle Von Adalbert Sherman. It was no sherlock mystery to know this person came from a wealthy family, but after taking the time to read the names of the Ten Commandment roster, everyone’s name was unnecessarily long. It made Ren doubt himself. Did people in this age naturally have really long names? Nobody in the orphanage had long names like this. Were they just the oddballs of society? Either that, or The Ten Commandments were occupied by only those of wealthy birth.
“You see…” Prof. Kamui finally uncoiled his tongue. “The school is currently under the rule of the wealthy’s despotism…”
Apparently those of wealthy birth have been dominant in the school. Blessed with early education, support, talent, skills, and magic, they displayed phenomenal results that others in the academy could not. Due to their superiority, the elites established territory over the school. While Prof. Kamui wished for a more egalitarian setting, there was nothing he could do. The elites abided by his very rules, and quickly used the Ten Commandment privileges to exact their wills.
Quite honestly, Ren found himself bored with the school’s endeavors. With the amount of freedom that the Ten Commandments gave, he was certain that he too would have taken advantage of it. The result was no surprise.
“Ah, but you don’t have to worry about the school’s civil conflict. After all, we just need you to better hone your tactics, and strategic abilities.”
Ren licked the tip of his finger and turned the next page. “What do you mean?”
“As you’ve already guessed, this school is for the magically gifted. There’s no reason for you to get involved with the issues of the students.”
Apparently Jennifer did not mention that Ren was capable of magic in her report. Now that he thought about it, he never used his magic in front of her. If anything, she probably requested for him to be put in a position where he could utilize the full potential of his intellect. There’s a large amount of elements to consider in the art of war, other than just a huge murder fest. He just thought that she knew he had magic, which was the reason why he was sent to the magic academy in the first place. Then again, this would serve as a delectable surprise when he took the top seat for himself. Jennifer mentioned that everyone there would hardly be a challenge to Cecilia. In that case, there was no way anyone could be stronger than him, since he had never lost a fight to Cecilia.
The chopper landed without a hitch. A remote island in the middle of nowhere of the ocean. It was very modernized, kind of like Honolulu except much smaller. From the runway, he could see the school, as well as a large clock tower that stood tall in the center. As they got closer, it became clear that the clock tower resembled the Big Ben in London. It was surrounded by classrooms that formed the corners of a square. The student dorms were constructed outside of the classroom perimeters, and in the far back opposite of the runway was the arena where mock battles took place.
“Ren! This way,” Prof. Kamui called out.
He didn’t want to go in the direction that Prof. Kamui lead him. The school, the students, the desire to explore the new area and meet new people was much more riveting.
He walked over to the closest classroom and took a peek through the windows. There were actual students in chairs and desks learning from teachers in a proper school setting. Something about this scene stirred a nostalgic feeling inside. There was a time when he looked forward to doing something like this. A time where all his friends gathered, and they would spend the whole day with the teacher until their parents came to pick him up.
The large clock tower rang, startling Ren in the middle of his reminiscence. The campus flooded with students from their respective classrooms. This was the first time Ren had ever seen so many kids and teens out and about at one time. From what Ren could see, everyone was either teens or kids. Was he in the junior high/elementary section of the school? More importantly, why wasn’t anyone talking to each other. There were no smiles or laughter, everyone looked miserable. Was this a normal school setting? There seemed to be a traffic pattern to the way the students walked too. That’s when it occurred to Ren that the traffic pattern revolved around students in expensive and gaudy clothes, giving them a sort of private bubble. Which happen to also make it obvious that those students were the only ones that socialized, and only with each other.
There was no doubt about it. This was the territorial dominance that Prof. Kamui mentioned on the flight here.
After a few minutes, there was a change in the student traffic. All the students pressed against each other and compacted towards the clock tower. Ren was surprised by how fast the traffic changed. Had it not been for the shouting from the center of this huge student ring, he would have thought this was coordinated.
“Hah! You call that a threat? Is there anything you can say without bringing your daddy into the argument? Do something on your own for once!” The tone of that remark was definitely a female.
“Excuse you, and your entire lineage? You and your household should be ashamed that you weren’t born a son!” That one was a boy.
Ren pushed and squeezed his way through to the front row. He was way too curious about this to stay on the outskirts. Just as he shimmied his way through to the front, the boy in the heated argument had his hand raised and ready to strike. As expected by the way they spoke and their clean clothes, it was two kids of wealthy birth. Nonetheless, Ren didn’t like what he saw. The girl already had some dirt smeared and grass clung onto her clothes. He stepped forward, and grabbed the boy’s wrist in mid-swing. Every single student in the crowd gasped.
“Oi, did you just raise your hand against a girl?” Ren asked.
“What did you just say?” His eyes were bloodshot, and the popped veins on his temple were impossible to ignore.
“I said piss off you obnoxious dung beetle,” Ren released his grip and wiped his hand on his ragged shirt.
“How... dare you! Do you any idea who you’re speaking to!?”
“Only the most foul mammal in the entire world. Do you realize how toxic you look? Hitting and berating a girl in public like that? Is that how you treat your mother? Do you beat her too? Is that how you were raised? I bet even dogs can’t even bring themselves to like you.”
“Break it up you two!” Yelled Prof. Kamui. He put himself between the two boys.
“I am terribly sorry about this Mr. Ainsworth. Please forgive Ren’s behavior just now. He is new to the island and does not know the local conduct.”
“Absolutely not! This pleb not only sullied my garb, but humiliated me in public! I will have his head without question, and that is final!”
Ainsworth, Ren saw the name on the list of the Ten Commandments. He was the second seat.
“Mr. Ainsworth, please mind your temper and the boundary of your actions. Your seat grants power over the students of the academy as well as your personal freedom, not outsiders.”
“In that case, how about this?” Ren walked around Prof. Kamui and put himself in front of Ainsworth. “You can have my head, but only if you agree to forfeit your position as the Ten Commandment to me.”
The entire crowd gasped and went rampant with gossip.
It took a couple of seconds for Ainsworth to process what he had heard, then roared with laughter. He even had to hold himself to stop himself from falling over.
Prof. Kamui leaned in and agitatedly whispered into Ren’s ear, “What are you doing? You are a valuable strategist! Not a fighter!”
Ren pretended to not hear Prof. Kamui and waited for Ainsworth to accept his offer. After all, there was nothing for Ainsworth to lose. He had offered a death match proposal in front of hundreds of witnesses. Even if Ainsworth took his head, it was on his own terms. Of course, if Ainsworth lost, he would lose his seat as second, but that would never cross his mind. After all, his position as second seat and a noble made him believe he was invincible.
“I hope you have your last will written, that’s if you even have possession of anything,” Ainsworth cackled. “I accept! We duel at the school arena in thirty minutes!”
The entire school erupted with everyone’s voices, and everyone ran straight to the arena. There was no going back on this, and there was nothing Prof. Kamui could do to prevent this from happening.
Prof. Kamui personally escorted Ren to the challenger’s room of the arena, is what it looked like. When in actuality, he was doing his best to persuade Ren to apologize. After all, he was the principal of the school, he could negotiate directly with Ainsworth’s father. When he realized that he could not convince Ren, he had no choice but to leave for the commentator’s seat. For an official match, they needed someone to introduce Ren, and there was no other person here that knew him.
For whatever reason, the girl that Ren protected earlier tagged along. Didn’t speak a word or anything, simply observed him in silence. Even in the equipment room, she didn’t take her eyes off him. He didn’t care though, there were more important things at hand, such as whether he should reveal he had magic or not. He already knew how to defeat Ainsworth thanks to the papers Prof. Kamui handed to him. He knew exactly what type of magic Ainsworth had, and how to counter it.
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming. My name is Alexis Corona, beside me is none other than our principal Prof. Kamui, and we are your commentators for today’s sudden and first ever deathmatch!”
Ren nearly fell asleep thanks to this commentator. She couldn’t be any more boring. Commentator’s were supposed to raise excitement, not spread z’s.
“I’m sure everyone in the school already knows the reason for today’s dual, but there’s no information in our database regarding the new student. Prof. Kamui, would you kindly indulge us?”
Prof. Kamui cleared his throat into the microphone a couple of times. “Ah, yes. His name is Ren Asa. An orphan we invited for his remarkable strategic abilities and foresight. A child with great potential that we hope to see flourish in the future.”
Half of the academy in the audience laughed.
“I see,” Alexis did her best to hold her snicker in, but a bit of it escaped into the mic. “And what type of magic does he possess?”
“Unfortunately, as far as our network goes, he does not possess any magic.”
The audience laughed even harder.
Alexis herself could no longer hold herself back, but forced herself to speak through her chortle. “Yes... I believe I speak for all of us when I say that he indeed has ‘special’ abilities and foresight.”
Prof. Kamui went quiet and the laughter in the arena only grew louder. Which was fine in Ren’s opinion because the surprise would only escalate once he won. He just needed to decide whether or not he wanted to reveal his magic.
“In that case, I believe it is only natural that I introduce his opponent to provide a fair match,” said Alexis. “Today, Ren’s foe will be none other than the second seat of the Ten Commandments, Nicholas Doban Ainsworth the Fourth! He possesses crystal magic and often uses it for deception. However, that’s not stopping him from using it offensively, and defensively. So Ren, if you can hear me in the prep room, do us a favor and at least put on a good struggle to make up our wasted time.”
That was it, that was all Ren needed to decide whether or not he was going to use magic or not. The contenders met at the center of the arena where the referee announced the wages and conditions of their fight. A one-sided deathmatch where Ainsworth was permitted to take Ren’s head. In turn, if Ren won the fight, he would take Ainsworth’s seat in the Ten Commandment ranking. As for the wages, there was someone that voted for Ren to win, a single person and that person bet ten grand. In comparison, the bets for Ainsworth was well over a million already with more than a hundred votes.
This academy continued to surprise Ren in disappointing ways, and he wished it would stop. This was not what he had in mind when Jennifer confirmed his suspicions of the academy being a secret training ground for the prophesied apocalypse. He did not expect the nobles here to have sunk so low as to turn fights like this into profit. On top of the list of injudicious qualifications, they are sullying their chances of survival by oppressing the poor.
The referee dropped his hand and blew his whistle. Immediately, the arena itself began to topple and fold in symmetrical ways. The audience that surrounded them were now above and below Ren. The sky replaced the ground, the ground replaced the sky, and duplicates of the referee split from the original. In fact, everything seemed to have split into multiple dimensions except for Ainsworth, he disappeared completely.
Hundred of laser beams shot out from random directions at Ren. They came from the front, from behind, above him, below him, all appeared out of nowhere. Rather than being amazed, Ren was more confused by how crystal magic could possibly shoot lasers and mirror such accurate images. This was what the commentator meant by deception and offensive use. Despite the hundred of beams, none of them seemed to inflict any damage upon touch. In fact, only one of them did any damage and it hit the ground. It didn’t seem very destructive either, the ground had a circular black mark and sizzled, but that was it.
“Right from the get-go, Ainsworth unleashed his illusion maze upon Ren. All the disrespect from earlier must have really put him on edge. This must be his way of saying he plans on toying with Ren until he’s satisfied.” Alexis commentated.
Half of the audience applauded and cheered. From what Ren could tell, that half of the audience were nobles. More lasers shot at him from all directions, and only one inflicted any real damage. The attack burned a small circle in his left thigh and left a black mark. It hurt about as bad as being burned by fire. Ren ignored it to inspect the duplication all around him. When the audience applauded, all of them applauded. The horizontal duplicate, the vertical duplicate, everything the audience did, it replicated it at the same time. Did illusions work that way? He continued to play dumb and helpless at Ainsworth’s so called illusion and laser attacks. There was something else at play. Something that nobody else knew. Ren looked for the black hole that the laser attack left on the ground, and looked at all the other dimensions all around him. Just as he had suspected, the burn on the ground was also reflected in all the other images around him.
That was all Ren needed to know about Ainsworth’s magic. His only issue was to discern where Ainsworth was. Then again, Ren himself had not moved at all since the fifteen seconds of the fight had started. He looked forward in the same direction his body faced. Once so, he darted forward with his arm stretched out. Three meters into his charge, he grabbed something despite what his eyes lead him to believe. Ainsworth had let out a surprised gasp at Ren’s sudden charge.
“And somehow, Ren was able to locate and grab Ainsworth in the illusion!”
Alexis was a lot dumber than Ren thought. Without a doubt, he would give her his thanks later. Ren quickly punched Ainsworth with his free fist. He could not allow Ainsworth to escape his grip. If he did, he’d lose any chances of winning.
Ainsworth let out a painful cry as Ren’s punch made contact. From what what he could feel, he hit the left shoulder. With just a bit of change in angling, his knuckles met Ainsworth’s nose, and he let out another painful cry. Ren threw a third punch, then a fourth. He continued to punch Ainsworth over and over again until his knuckles were dyed red, which happened to be when the illusion magic finally dispersed and returned Ren’s surrounding to normal. Ainsworth laid motionless on the ground with a mask of blood. The crowd was silent, and even Alexis was speechless.
“C--co--contestant Ainsworth is down!!” The referee declared and blew his whistle.
Half of the audience went into an uproar at the result.
“He didn’t use any magic!”
“He’s a cheater!”
“How dare you lay your hands on Ainsworth!”
That entire half of the audience rioted and threw their concession snacks and drinks at Ren. None of them actually reached him.
Ren’s eye twitched at this ugly sight of sore losers who refused to accept what had just happened. So, he walked over to the referee who seemed too scared to move and stole the mic from him.
“SHUUT! THE FUCK! UP!!”
The speakers were so loud, it shook the arena. Those who stood up from their seats fell over with their hands over their ears.
“Attention please,” said Prof. Kamui. “Now that you’ve all quieted down, please allow me to lay down the verdict. If you’ve all read the terms of the fights in the arena, you’ll find that there’s no rule stating that the contestants aren’t allowed to fight without magic. In fact, I’m sure we have a few students who infuse magic with hand-to-hand combat as well. Therefore, Ren’s victory is valid!”
An eerie silence clung the arena. Nobody wanted to accept Ren’s win. At least, all of those of noble birth. It was obvious they couldn’t accept a victory from a commoner. Even more so since it was a victory over the second seat. However, there was still one more person that represented them. The one who sat at the very top of the academy. They whispered to each other.
Ren already had an idea of who and where the number one seat was. He turned around, and there she was. The girl that he protected earlier with the dirt and smudge stain on her clothes. She walked out of the challenger’s room that Ren changed in. Did he know that she was the number one? Not immediately, all Ren saw was a guy about to hit a girl, and that made him step in. He couldn’t get over his protective habit and interrupted a fight between the top two seats of the academy.
He stood about three inches taller than her. If he had to guess, she was either older or the same age as him. The first remark out of her mouth ticked him off.
“Kind of short for a boy, aren’t you?”
“I’ve got about a year or two left in me,” Ren responded. He was certain she was fooling around with him. He’s fifteen at 5 '10. He thought he was at a rather good height.
“I take it you know what Ainsworth’s magic is?” She asked.
“Photons. They call it crystal magic because that’s what solidified light particles take the shape of.”
Amy nodded at his answer. She averted her eyes for a brief moment before she looked back at Ren. “Explain.”
“His so called illusion maze is actually fractals, created by multiple large crystals to reflect the surrounding area. His laser attacks are just heavily concentrated particles that push things away, the photopheresis effect. The reason why there were hundreds of lasers is because the fractals reflect the lasers like a mirror. In the end, his fractals did nothing but reflect the bounce of his lasers to confuse the person trapped. Only the initial spell cast by Ainsworth would deal any real damage. ”
The color of Amy’s face seemed to have shifted pigment after his explanation, a slight flush of red. Not just that, but her body posture as well. She pulled her arms behind her back and held her wrist.
“What gave his abilities away?” Asked Amy.
“The name and the burnt circles on the ground. I don’t know why anyone would call it crystal magic if he could shoot lasers. On top of that, illusions don’t copy each other’s every move. Only reflections do.”
“That’s it?” Amy said, surprised at his reasons.
Amy tilted her head down and smiled. “I see,” she said ever so softly under her breath.
“And how did you know where Ainsworth was in the reflection? He uses his magic to bend light and make himself invisible.”
“Don’t be absurd. He probably never had a real fight in his life, and his confidence in his magic prevents him from making any strategic positioning. Someone with that much pride and ego wouldn’t move if he can simply trap his target and make himself invisible.”
Amy placed the tip of her fingers on her lower lip and said, “Impressive.”
“So what? Are you going to fight me now to protect the monarchy you rich kids created?”
Amy giggled and hopped over to Ren and whispered in a schemy tone in his ear. “I have a proposal…”