Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Chapter 9 – Princess Irene – Ambush!
"Leila, get Irene somewhere safe!"
"Got it! Don't do anything crazy by yourself!" The wolf in front leaps at me, opening its mouth revealing its sharp teeth and upper two fangs. I swing back my right arm and sidestep to the left. I dash forward while making a horizontal swing to the wolf's mouth, cleanly bisecting the wolf into two parts. The remains make a sound as they fall to the ground.
The other wolves growl as they stare at me for several seconds. Three of them comes at me; two of them split up, attempting to flank me on each side while the other one approaches me slowly from the front.
I stand still while I wait for their combined attack. I can easily take these E grade monsters one by one, but there're too many of them… I should stall for time and wait for Leila to back me up.
The wolves charge at me at the same time, preparing to swipe me with their claws and bite me with their teeth. I jump backwards, narrowly dodging the flank attack causing the two wolves to crash into each other. I block the incoming claws in front of me with both swords, knocking the wolf backwards with the force.
The wolf on the left rushes towards me and attempts to pounce on me, but I swing my left sword and strike its head with the blunt surface, causing it to fly and roll on the ground. That should give it a temporary concussion.
On my right, the wolf has both paws in the air, ready to strike me in the next moment. I move my right arm just in time, to horizontally block both attacks. I bring my left arm back, cutting the right foreleg off before pushing it away with my right sword.
Suddenly in my peripheral vision, the middle wolf leaps towards me.
Shit, I won't make it… I have to dodge! A spike made of stone appears from the ground, instantly impaling the bottom of the wolf's head. I turn around. Leila is crouched with her hands on the ground. I smile before facing the wolf on the left. It growls at me while still on the ground; it hasn't recovered yet. The wolf continues to stare at me with its dark, orange eyes while snarling its sharp teeth and growling. I grip my weapons tightly and walk toward it. I'll put it outta its misery.
"Kai, there's something strange about the wolf behind you!"
The wolf…behind me…? He shouldn't be able to move.
I turn around and widen my eyes. Its mouth is open, and I observe fire gathering from the inside, gradually growing larger. These aren't any ordinary wolves… They're capable of using magic!
I smile as I sheathe my left sword. This is an excellent opportunity to get back some of my Mana…
The orb of flames from inside the wolf's mouth eventually changes into a small fireball that flies towards me. Hmm… It's slower than I expected.
I shoot out a quick burst of my Mana, which envelops the fireball. I stretch my left arm in front of me before shouting, "Absorb!"
A lustrous purple haze covers the entire front surface of my hand that is placed right in front of the trajectory of the fireball. During impact, I feel some resistance and it pushes me an inch backwards, but I maintain my balance. My hand slowly sucks the fireball dry in a matter of a few seconds. The haze disappears from my hand, but I keep my palm facing the same direction and smirk. My turn…
"Fireball!" A fireball of much greater scorching intensity than the previous fireball but the same size appears and heads straight towards the wolf on the ground. Upon impact, it explodes, scattering the fiery gasses all around the wolf. When the flames disappear, the wolf's remains are nothing more than smoking, black charcoal.
I frown as I put my palm on my face and shake my head. Damn, I lost more Mana than I gained with that attack… At least we know they aren't magic resistant.
The remaining wolves growl as they slowly back away. Just when I think they're going to retreat, one of them howls. The rest of them join. I cock an eyebrow and look towards Leila, who is preparing magic. Leila exclaims, "Idiot, they're calling for reinforcements!"
I widen my eyes as I grit my teeth all while heading straight for the lone wolf on the left; it's still lying on the ground. It looks like it still can't move… This is my chance.
I throw back my right arm preparing to kill it, but it suddenly lunges at me holding both paws up readying to scratch me. I click my tongue. Sneaky bastard…but it's not enough.
I draw and block both claws with my other sword. My right follows through afterward, and I stab its brain through the eye socket. I pull out my sword and stab it again on top of the head just to be safe. Numerous explosions go off behind me. I smile skeptically. It sounds like she's having fun…
"Kai, watch out! There're nine of them headed your way!" I quickly turn my head behind me, immediately finding them charging me at full speed. I waste no time running in the opposite direction as fast as I possibly can.
They're gonna catch up to me in no time…and I can't lose more Mana enhancing my speed… I raise my eyebrows and grin. I sheathe both swords, gather the necessary Mana, and release it. I look behind me. Several fireballs are headed my way. I dodge them. The wolves are right on my tail.
Should I make a loop around the other side of the stream or the forest…? I can't risk the chance that they'll not follow this path back. If I don't hurry, there won't be enough Mana to activate the spell. It's now or never.
I draw both of my swords and jump forward while turning around. When I sprint forward into the pack of wolves, they launch an assault of swipes on me as I run by them. I attempt to block as many attacks as possible, but I end up receiving some scratches on all four of my limbs. I look behind me, observing that they're headed toward me on the exact same pathway. I stop running, turn around, and smile.
Good… Just keep running…full speed in this direction. I wait for them to reach the designated destination and activate my magic. "Open!"
The familiar portal appears in front of the wolves, large enough to cover the entire pathway. The end point is in front of me, perpendicular to the other portal while facing the stream. As they enter through the portal, I indiscriminately launch an endless storm of slashes with both of my blades directly in front of me. I only count the number of wolves that go through. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine…
I take a deep breath and wander my eyes around. The wolves continue to run toward the stream. A few seconds later, they crash into the ground. Some of them drop into the creek, marking it with streaks of blood. My plan succeeded as planned. I thought that given their speed, they wouldn't be able to react in time to evade running into the portal. Let's see how Leila's doing…
I turn around and head back. Leila's surrounded by five wolves. All of them lunge forward at once. I sigh and sheathe my swords. It's already over…
"Boost!" she exclaims and jumps high in the air, with a gust of wind at the bottom of her feet. The wolves collide against each other below. "Dome prison!"
Rocks come out from the ground in a circle, extending upwards into a dome shape, quickly trapping the wolves inside. I know there's a tiny opening on top of the dome. The trapped wolves growl. The dome shakes but shows no signs of breaking down. Leila lands on top and holds her palm in an upward position.
"Time bomb!" An earthy ball large enough to fit in the entirety of her hand appears. She crouches down, slips it through the hole, and jumps down while slowly walking towards me afterward.
Several seconds later, the dome explodes leaving a trail of smoke. A piece of the dome flies toward me. I dive into the water and point my eyebrows downward with a frown. "Hey, you almost killed me!"
She clicks her tongue and turns away. "Damn..."
I grit my teeth, feeling my head burning up. I relax and ask, "Where's Irene?"
"She's safe, near the top of a tree in that direction." She points to where we originally came. I sigh and get out of the water, laying down next to it.
"Hand me a Mana respirator, would you?" She opens her pouch and pulls out two Mana respirators. She tosses me one and uses the other one herself. I put the respirator in my mouth and inhale as I press the button on the side of it. I hold it in as long as possible and exhale. I try to inhale more, but there's nothing left. That's it…?
I sigh, frown, and then toss the useless scrap of glass into the stream. I wish these were a little more effective for me…
A wolf whimpers nearby. I turn toward it, discovering that it's a wolf Leila failed to finish off, but it already has mortal injuries. "Leila, you didn't finish it off?"
"Oh, it might have been the unlucky one… It's only a matter of time before it dies anyway. We should go. Irene is waiting." As I get up, more rustling noises resound from the direction the wolves came. I scratch my head and sigh.
"We don't have all day to be fighting these things; we should just ru…" Without warning, a Keor leaps out from a bush; it is a tiger distinguishable from other tigers by its trademark red fur and yellow and orange stripes. It's classified as a rank A monster.
I widen my eyes as I gradually drop my jaws, but I quirk an eyebrow when I notice that it is bleeding; there are several gashes on the side of its body and blood oozes out of them, quickly forming a puddle around its legs.
A shadow comes from behind the Keor and I simply gape at the ending result; the parts of the tiger fall to the ground after being separated into five parts. My entire body feels cold, but sweat drips down my cheek. Neither Leila nor I move a single muscle.
In front of us is a giant wolf; it might be nearly twice the size of a regular wolf. It has black, spiky fur on its entire body with the exception of white fur on its underbelly. The claws are about five inches long; three times longer than a regular wolf's. It stares at us with its red eyes and softly growls, revealing four large fangs and razor-sharp teeth. It's…an Anomaly…
I gulp as my entire body quivers. I recall a painful memory. The black wolf walks up to the nearby whimpering wolf and sniffs it. It wags its enormous tail left and right, creating an unbelievable amount of air pressure with each swing. A few seconds pass and the whimpering stops. There is a brief silence, but then the wolf suddenly turns its head towards us and roars thunderously.
I immediately cover both of my ears with my hands. Its powerful roar pierces my ears, and my entire head swells up with pain while a ringing sound resonates in my ears. The wolf approaches me rapidly while I haven't recovered. I promptly draw both of my swords and hold it in front of me in an X-shape to block the incoming attack. "Ahhhh!"
The force of the attack launches me backward, and I crash into a tree. As I open my eyes, everything is a blur, and I cough up blood on the top of my hand. With every cough, pain pulses in my upper back; something may have been broken. Leila mumbles among the ringing in my ears.
"Kai, watch out! It's coming for you!" I feel a surge of killing intent. All of its razor-sharp teeth are in front of me ready to close in.
Shit…need to dodge! I tighten my muscles before shouting, "Haste!"
I boost my legs for a moment to frantically roll away. The wolf's teeth bite through the entire tree like butter a split second later. The top of the tree crashes down next to it. While panic-stricken, I gasp for air and attempt to calm down. Vines appear and bind the wolf's limbs and body to the ground. "Kai, get a hold of yourself!"
I sluggishly stand up, having trouble maintaining my balance. I sheathe my left sword, grip the remaining sword with both hands, and close my eyes. After taking one deep breath, I open my eyes and spring towards the wolf. While holding my arms behind my head, I prepare all my strength into the next blow.
"Strengthen!" Power surges through both of my arms as the wolf still struggles to get out of the vines. Die!
My sword swoops down with amazing speed and power, but my sword snaps in half. The top part flies toward my face and grazes my left cheek. I close my left eye by reflex. There's no injury to the wolf at the location of impact. I hold my breath and gape at where I struck the wolf. What…? That was made outta Mithril…
"Kai, get back!" I focus back on reality. I quickly jump backward while tossing away the broken sword. Leila puts her hands out in front of her. The wolf's tail acts strangely. It curls up and hangs in the air.
"Stop! Just run for now!" I exclaim while running toward Leila. She scrunches her eyebrows together.
"What're you—" I grab her hand while running and grit my teeth as more pain shoots down my back. Still running, I turn my head behind me. The tail stretches out, hitting and breaking the ground. Massive black spikes appear from the ground in front of the tail. These spikes rapidly erupt from the ground, extending all the way across the stream, ending when it collides into a tree. Leila has her eyes widened.
"Listen, that thing is an Anomaly… Most likely his black fur and those spikes are made outta Obsidian." I inform.
"Obsidian fur and…spikes…? Is that even possible?"
"It is… Anomalies are exceedingly rare but extremely powerful. I encountered one in the past before and barely escaped death."
"I've read about them, but I didn't believe it… I guess I have to believe it now… What can we do?"
"Running isn't an option; it's too fast… "
I briefly turn towards the sudden roar and loud noises in the area we just left. I close my eyes. Think…! There has to be a weakness we can exploit…its eyes…no…that's too risky…
I open my eyes and raise my eyebrows. Wait, why doesn't that black fur cover his entire body…?
I gulp and say, "There is one thing we can try… Its underbelly may be vulnerable, and we might be able to injure him there… The problem is, it's not gonna let us anywhere near there."
"What about with your—"
"Yeah, with my portals, we might be able to do it, but you'll have to stop his movements again."
She frowns with a sullen look on her face. "What if…it doesn't work…?
I stare at her with unwavering eyes and firmly say, "We can do it. We've made it this far, together… Afterward, we'll go pick up Irene and have the same usual fun like we always do."
I reciprocate her emerging smile.
"Yeah, you're right…" Suddenly, Leila pulls me towards the forest. "Let's hide in here for now."
We improvise a plan together in the time before the Anomaly finds us. In the meantime, Leila casts a few weak fireballs for me to absorb and temporarily closes my wounds.
"Hey, Kai… Did we really need to set all of this up…? It isn't coming."
"It should be able to track us by smell…even if it doesn't see us." I bite my lip. Come on…where are you…?
I scan the area around me with squinting eyes. I come to a stop and raise my eyebrows. "I see him… Let's do as we planned, no matter what happens."
Leila nods. "Go-got it."
I jump down from the tree and draw my sword holding it with just my right hand. I slowly approach the wolf, who I saw afar. As I move closer, I step on a twig creating a crumpling noise that alerts the wolf. It immediately leaps towards my direction, shaking the ground as it lands with its massive body. It stands still and growls while narrowing its eyes on me.
I gulp while drops of sweat drip down my cheek. I position my body so that it is ready for retreat at any time during this confrontation. My eyes dart left and right surveying the environment while still focusing on the wolf.
Suddenly, the wolf charges at me with great speed. I react and leap backward, putting my left hand in front of me.
The first test… I break down my Mana and immediately use it. "Fire bolt! Fire bolt! Fire bolt!"
Fire in the shape of fat arrows appears out of my left hand. I aim them toward its left leg every time. It dodges two by moving to the right. It jumps over the last one. Good… It's probably afraid of the damage spreading to its underbelly… I can use this.
The wolf raises its right paw in the air. I turn around while sheathing my weapon. I sprint toward the nearest tree. A loud sound erupts behind me. The vibrations in the ground gradually intensify. "Ha-haste!"
I take refuge behind the tree in a hurry, disabling the enhancement afterward. With both of my hands on the tree, I peek my head out. Black spikes erupting from the ground approach me on a straight path. I gulp. The second test…
I retreat my head and close my eyes. My heart beats like crazy. Half a second later, the tree shakes violently. Leaves fall on the ground. I open my eyes and sigh. That shaved off years of my life…
I sneak another look at the wolf and smirk. It snarls and growls at me. My smirk dissipates as I'm unsure of my impending safety. It raises both paws. I cock an eyebrow as they shine red. Feeling suspicious, I back away from the tree. I retreat to a tree much farther ahead. The paws strike the ground. Black spikes erupt from two different locations under the paws toward the tree I was at. They curve around the tree and head toward me.
I raise my eyebrows and stare open-mouthed. I rapidly turn my head left and right, eventually running in a direction heading closer to Leila. Shit! Hiding behind a tree isn't gonna do me much good now… Oh wait.
I jump towards the nearest tree and climb it in a hurry wrapping my limbs around the trunk. The spikes approach me. I smile. Heh… There's no way that can hit me now.
The spikes continue to dodge the trees ahead of them, but the height of them is too short to reach me. One surge of spikes approaches me from my left and the other one from the right. At this rate, they'll collide with each other into the tree, right under…me…huh? Is that a coincidence…?
I widen my eyes and kick off the tree with all four limbs posthaste. The spikes collide with each other and the tree. A fissure forms at the bottom of the tree that travels upward while releasing black spikes. The spike punctures through my armor and my stomach, leaving me hanging.
I scream in agony as massive pain disperses from my stomach and with every heartbeat, I feel more pain radiating out from my wound. I firmly grab the spike and steadily pull myself out, while strongly gritting my teeth. Fresh blood rushes out of my gaping injury after I finally pull myself out. Latent killing intent approaches me frighteningly fast.
I barely turn my head left. The wolf is lunging at me with its claws ready. I pull out my sword instinctively and guard with both hands.
"Stren—" I hack out blood and take a small breath. "Strengthen!"
I block its claws. It sends me flying in the opposite direction. I crash into the ground, sliding across the dirt at least 15 feet. I groan in pain with my eyes shut. I'm unable to move an inch without more pain shooting throughout my body. I figure the injury to my upper back reopened at some point.
Is this where it ends…? Before I accomplish my sole purpose in life…? A wild laugh echoes from my memories. I strongly grit my teeth and clench both fists until I hear them crack. No…
I get up sluggishly and survey my current whereabouts. A smile emerges. Is this fate…?
Leila is among the leaves in the tree nearby. She stares at me with a hand over her mouth.
A small puddle of blood forms from where I lay. I use all my remaining strength to get up while using my sword as a crutch. I pant as I struggle my way toward the designated location for the plan. With every stab to the ground, I twitch my eye in pain. With every step, blood gushes out from my wound onto the ground.
Something crackles in the distance behind me. I sense the wolf coming. I raise my eyebrows as high as possible and grimace while continuing to limp my way to the position. It feels like hours have passed, but less than a minute passed since the wolf struck me. I drop to my knees at my destination while still holding onto my sword that is dug into the ground. I…I did it… It's up to Leila now…
Using the sword, I turn myself around. The wolf runs toward me. That's right… Keep heading in this direction you bastard… I'm right here.
I glare into its eyes as it charges towards me. Even though I'm on the edge of death…I feel at peace… I wonder why…
"Sprout!" Sizable vines rapidly come out from trees all around the wolf.
"Entangle!" The vines seek in on the wolf, twirling around its limbs and body. It roars and struggles, breaking a few vines in the process, but more vines zoom in on the wolf disabling all movement; it can't even lie on the ground now. "Kai!"
I let go of the sword and release my Mana with both hands. A purple portal appears on the ground in front of me and slightly above ground under the wolf. I grip my sword and pull it out of the ground which causes me to stumble backwards from the sudden force. I grit my teeth as I fall on my back. "Argh!"
I gasp and slowly get back up while using the sword to help me. As I stare down into the portal, I take a deep breath. "Strengthen!"
I tightly grip my sword with both hands in reverse grip and stab through the portal with everything I have. It goes through and stops.
The wolf lets out a weak roar. I glance up. The sword is lodged into his stomach. The wolf continues to wrestle with the vines, but without any results. I let go of my sword before shouting, "Close!"
My weapon disappears in front of me and stays inside of the wolf's stomach. With barely any energy left, I support my body weight with both hands on the ground and gulp. I stare into its eyes and smirk. Come on… You're angry aren't you?
It scowls at me as it releases an ear-splitting roar. I grimace with my eyes shut tightly as an incredible ringing overcomes my ears. Pain throbs throughout my entire body. The wolf breaks free of more vines. Its mouth is open, pointing in my direction. I smile and release Mana toward their designated locations. A massive amount of Mana appears in the wolf's mouth. It turns black for a moment before turns into flames. It shoots it out toward me after a second. "Open!"
A horizontal portal appears on the ground under the wolf-like before and a vertical portal forms directly in front of me. I collapse on the ground, desperately trying to roll to the side. The wolf's magic goes through the portal and comes out under the wolf. All the restraining vines are broken as the wolf is launched vertically into the air. The cries of the wolf grow quieter with every moment.
My vision fades. "Kai!"
I regain my consciousness. Leila jumps down from the tree and kneels down beside me. A drop of sweat runs down her cheek as she puts her hands on the gaping one-inch diameter hole on my stomach. "Why do you look so worried…? It's only a flesh wound."
"Idiot…" Tears flow down her face despite her smile. I muster to find the strength in my body to lift my hand to wipe her tears.
"It worked out, just like I said it wo—" I cough out more blood.
"Don't talk!" Her arms tremble as she tries to heal my wounds.
"More importantly… Did you see if it died?
"I don't know…" Uneasiness stirs inside me. Suddenly, something crashes next to us, forming a dirt cloud. We both cough and cover our mouths. A few seconds pass as I gulp my fear down as it finally clears to show the wolf lying on its side with its belly prone to us. Its stomach shows signs of third-degree burns in a circular pattern, and it hemorrhages around the hilt of the sword lodged in the center. It doesn't move.
"It's dead…right…?" I gulp and stare at it. My heart skips a beat as its leg twitches weakly. We both gape as it slowly stands back up. It…it's over…
The wolf turns its head towards us and stares, without making a sound for several seconds. It finally lets out a weak grunt, turns back around, and then walks away. We switch between looking at the wolf and to each other with blank expressions on our faces. Randomly, we both giggle and sigh. "Leila, I'm gonna take a nap…"
"Kai, hang on!" My eyes become heavy because of the blood loss and my consciousness finally fades.
Chapter 10 – Academy Year 2 - Genius
The sounds of wood clashing echo around the room until we both disengage simultaneously. Hot sweat drips down my face as I hold my stance with both wooden blades in front of me. While still panting heavily, I swallow the little amount of saliva I have in my mouth and feel slight discomfort as it trickles down my parched throat.
My eyes don't lose focus for a single moment as I stare at Sitos in front of me. He raises and drops his shoulders while open-mouthed. His left arm is in a lower position than his normal stance. Is his left arm tired…?
Since I know he's also observing me, I refrain from looking at it too much to not give myself away. My arms are almost at their limit too, but if I show any weakness he'll see that and take advantage of it… I don't see any other choice here… Okay, I can do this. Today, I'll finally win!
I tighten my grip on both practice swords in my hands immediately noticing that the profuse amount of sweat in my hand makes it difficult to hold a steady grip. I don't let this bother me, and I charge forward while holding my left blade up and my right blade in a defensive position. He tightens his guard on his right side. I throw back my right arm in preparation to horizontally strike his left side.
"Sorry Sitos, it's my win today!" I exclaim as I put power into both of my arms, when suddenly, a broad smile surfaces on his face.
"Not a chance, Kai!" he exclaims as he swings his left sword upward right before my blade hits him.
What?! I can only gape and watch helplessly as he knocks my right arm into the air. I lose my balance, and my other attack weakens, losing over half of its power. He blocks it with his dominant arm. His other weapon approaches my face. I close my eyes habitually and tighten my lips.
After a few seconds pass, I gradually relax as I inch my eyes open wondering why he hasn't ended our duel yet. Huh…? Where'd he go?
I fully open my eyes, only to close them again when something hard strikes the top of my head. "Ow!"
I drop both of my swords to the ground to cover my head with both hands. He sighs. "Idiot, how many times do I have to tell you? Never close your eyes when you are in a fight."
He looks at me with a disappointed look. "Mmm…"
I frown and tilt my head down while still keeping my hands on top of my head, even when he sighs again a few seconds later. "Well, you have definitely made some major improvements in the past few months…"
I raise my head. He turns his head slightly away from me.
"What I'm trying to say is…uh…goo-good job…" he says while turning his head farther away from me after every word. His volume decreases toward the end of the sentence.
Wow… Sitos complimented me! My frown transforms into a grin before exclaiming, "Thanks, Sitos!"
"Su-sure…" he mutters as he blushes lightly. I turn my head toward the sudden sound of a door flinging open.
"'Sup. Are ya two done?" Hiro asks as he walks into the room all while smiling. The others are following behind him.
"Hey!" I exclaim as I raise my hand.
"Kai, ya lost again…?" Hiro asks with a disappointed voice, shrugging his shoulders. He shakes his head. I narrow my eyebrows.
"What didja say earlier again…? I think it was, 'I'm gonna beat Sitos today!' right?"
"Uhh…" I rear my head back as I frown bitterly, but I melt into a grin again when I think back to Sitos. "That's not important! You won't believe what just happened! Sitos—"
"It was about time you slowpokes got here. Let us go—"
Sitos suddenly interrupts me with a loud voice, but the desire to tell the world overwhelms me, and I continue, "Complimented me!"
I don't hear anything for several seconds while everyone wears blank expressions. The room bursts into laughter, even Marin, who generally doesn't express her feelings at all.
"That's a good joke, Kai!" Hiro exclaims as he holds his stomach with both hands. Sitos' head is down, but his face is flushed red.
"What were ya sayin' earlier, Sitos?" Hiro asks as he's still laughing a little. Sitos is still unresponsive staring at the ground. "Sitos…don’t tell me…it's actually…true?"
Sitos shakes his entire body slightly.
"Is that true, Sitos?" I turn my head towards Luna, who chimes into the conversation.
"Ye-yes…" Sitos quietly mutters.
"It's great that you two are getting along so well now!" Luna exclaims.
Hiro cocks an eyebrow. "How the heck didja get Sitos to do that, Kai? That's amazin’ ya know."
I respond to Hiro by giving him a broad grin. Standing by the exit, Drugo says, "Friends, we should start to head back, it's getting late."
"Yeah, you're right," I say. I knit my eyebrows as Sitos walks toward the exit like nothing happened. Sometimes I don't understand him…
"Kai, are you going to stand there like an idiot or are you coming with us?" Sitos asks with his back faced toward me.
"Ah, yeah!" I hurry and catch up with everyone else in the hallway. We begin walking towards our home.
"Let's review a little bit as we're heading back."
"Ehh…but I'm tired…" Hiro complains.
"Good idea Drugo. Start us off with something since it was your idea."
"Sure thing, Sitoster. Someone tell me what the categories of magic are."
Marin, who has been quiet this entire time, quickly answers, "Evocation, Enhancement, Conjuration, Life, Alteration, Abjuration, and Runic, right? Umm... A question… What… What's the purpose of commanding Mana?"
"As expected of Marin, you answered so fast!" Luna exclaims as she smiles before continuing, "To answer your question, that's because without issuing commands to our Mana, it would rapidly diffuse into the air. So we need to give our Mana instructions before we release them from our body or else it serves no purpose. Basically, we have to do it if we wanna use magic! Hmm… What are keywords?"
Everyone puts on an amazed facial expression as Luna answers Marin's question. "Brilliant answer, Luna. Keywords instantly recall a list of programmed instructions that you have defined for it. However, even if it is a shortcut to commanding Mana, you still have to prepare the Mana within your body so that when you shout it, it can take however much Mana it needs to follow the instructions. Now, tell me what trigger words are, Kai."
"Ugh, why me, Sitos…?" I ask lethargically with a frown. "Uhh… Trigger words are the same thing as keywords, except that they activate inactive Mana you released outside of your body… I think you can also define them to a word without shouting it out beforehand…"
Since I can't think of a question, I leave it at that. I hear nothing but the chatter of other students and our footsteps for several seconds. "What the heck Kai, don't break the chain!"
"Kai, ask us something."
While ignoring Hiro, I turn my head towards Luna, who is smiling. Hmm… If she says so…
I narrow my eyes as I think of a question, and then I turn towards Hiro. "Hiro the Great, how do Magic Affinities affect our magic?"
"Hah, that's too easy of a question for the great me to answer, why don'tcha answer instead, Drugo?"
Drugo laughs lightly before responding, "Just answer the question Hiroster, and ask me anything you want afterward."
Hiro crosses his arms, smiles, and says, "Tch… Magic Affinity determines how strong a spell is right? So if someone has a high Affinity for Fire magic and uses the same magic as someone with a low Affinity for Fire magic, then the one with high Affinity has more attack power. I hafta think of a question so gimme a sec, wouldja?"
I knit my eyebrows as he begins to answer the question. I frown the entire time. Everyone is silent, seemingly giving Hiro time to think of a question, but I just remember that I'm the one who asked him in the first place. "Bzzzzz… That's wrong, Hiro the Great."
"Magic Affinity generally determines how much of that element you can utilize at once. So people with higher Affinities can use larger scale spells, and they can manipulate free elements available from the environment," Drugo responds correctly.
"Damn, I must've skipped over that detail when I studied… I could've answered all the previous questions right, though!" Hiro exclaims while still appearing confident. "I thought of my question! Why—"
"That is enough reviewing. It seems all of us are prepared for the theory portion. More importantly, let us discuss what we are going to add to our new room once we win the contest."
"Sitos, what ‘bout my ques—"
"I want some couches for the common room!"
"I think a bigger refrigerator and freezer space would be great!"
"Even you, Lu—"
"And more…cooking mediums…"
"We can also use—"
"Hey!" Hiro exclaims into my ear after interrupting Drugo. I immediately twist the left side of my face as I shut my left eye. I turn toward Hiro as I point my eyebrows downward.
"You bastard, don't yell right into my ear!"
"Don't leave me outta this conversation! What're y'all talkin' ‘bout?"
I sigh before answering, "Weren’t you paying attention in class? Moria said that the theory and practical exam scores will be averaged for everyone in a group, and the group with the highest score wins the first large room in the last hallway, room 1A. The additional prize is that we get to request some extra amenities."
"I am kind of worried about you, Kai. I know you train hard on your sword, but I never see you train Mana control. You are not going to screw us all over by failing, right?
"I'll be fine, don't worry Sitos. You should be more worried about him…" I say as I gesture my head once towards Hiro. A moment later, everyone frowns with worrisome expressions on their faces.
"You are right. He is really du… He is not very bright…" Sitos says.
"I'm worried too…" Luna says.
"Maybe the test will be easy…so he can pass," Marin says.
"Friends, have more faith in him!"
"Then why're you sweating, Drugo?" I ask, but he doesn't respond.
No one says a word until Hiro says, "Hello… I'm right here ya know… I can hear ya…"
"Don't you know that we know that you can hear us? This is why we're worried…" I say as I look at him, only to look away and sigh while shaking my head.
"Do not waste too much energy, Kai. You will only tire yourself out. I am going to sleep," Sitos says as he opens the door to our home. We say our goodnights and head into our rooms.
I take the book Emdos gave me from the shelf, and I look down on it. I flip to the middle of the book where I never figured out how to bypass. A strange piece of paper is wrapped around the second half of the book. I examine all of the sides again, but I still can't figure it out. I sigh as I put the book back on the shelf.
I haven't learned anything new for over six months now… I learned everything Moria has been teaching this year last year… When will I learn something new…? I'm still worried about that too… I undress and tuck myself in bed, but don't fall asleep. Instead, I stare at the ceiling and think back to my second day here.
After waking up, I exited my room and found everyone eating breakfast.
"Kaister, you're up late. By the way, I've been wanting to ask you… What happened yesterday?" Drugo asked as he was chewing something.
"Uhh…it was nothing, really… This is kinda a weird question, but was I wearing a backpack yesterday or did you see one in this room?"
I only heard various slurping and crunching noises before Drugo responded, "I don't think so… By the way, breakfast is served outside the hall—"
"I'll be back!" I rushed out the room and saw many of the students walking around. In the hallway leading to the exit, I noticed many tables set up with food served on them. My stomach grumbled, but I ignored my hunger for now and ran out of the building.
I don't understand… Since I didn't have the backpack to begin with that means the guards had it! I'll ask them what they did with it. I ran straight into the Academy and headed for the entrance. I got there and saw two guards standing by the entrance. "Hey, excuse me…"
They turned around after I called out to them, and I cocked an eyebrow. What…? They're different…
"What, a student? What is it?"
"Umm… What happened to the two guards stationed here yesterday?"
The two guards glanced at each other before looking back at me. "We do not know… Sometime yesterday evening someone reported that they were missing, and we searched for them, but we did not find them. It is strange because they worked here for several years without a problem to leave without a trace…"
"I see, never mind…" I said as I turned back around and slowly walked back towards the dormitory building. What does this mean…?
In the end, I never found out how my backpack appeared in my room, and I stopped thinking about it until now. Is there someone watching me…?
I shiver slightly, despite feeling warm in my blanket. The only person who knows about this book is Emdos…so was it him…? Maybe that was him when I felt that chill in the lecture room… He told me never to show anyone my Mana…
I grab the blanket and lay on my side as I wrap the blanket tightly around me. Maybe I should try tossing this book somewhere random and see if it comes back…
I shake my head. Forget it. I'm gonna rest for tomorrow's test…
I fall asleep without a problem and then wake up in the morning. I brush my teeth and then shower, before dressing and heading into the common room. Luna and Marin are preparing our breakfast as usual in the kitchen. Sitos says, "Holy shit you are awake… I do not know why that still surprises me considering you always sleep in."
I smile as I walk over to the table. All the guys are sitting here already.
"And I never understand how you guys sleep so little," I say as I pull back an empty chair and sit down next to Hiro. He rests his head on the table. "Hiro, I hope you're ready for the test today…"
"Huh…? Oh, it's you, Kai… Yeh don't worry, I got this." I cock an eyebrow when Hiro responds quietly.
"Kai, you're just in time for breakfast! Marin and I baked some banana-nut bread!"
"I poured some milk…for everyone." The girls hand out our plates and cups of milk. Luna brings the fresh loaf of bread and lays it down on the center of the table. Sitos takes a knife and evenly cuts the bread into 12 slices. We each take two pieces and enjoy our breakfast while chatting about random things.
We leave, lock our door, and head to our usual lecture room. It seems Teacher Moria is not here yet, so we talk in the meantime. Luna asks with a smile, "Kai, which magic bonding lesson are you gonna attend after the exam?"
Ergh… I don't want Luna to know about more of my poor test results…but I can't lie to that face… I stare at the floor next to Luna before answering, "Umm… I only have low Affinity for Fire magic…so I have to go to that one."
I sigh. Luna suddenly claps her hands once right next to me face. My heart skips a beat as I quickly turn my head toward her. "That's great! Actually, I have a high Affinity for Fire magic, so I'm planning on going to that one!"
So, I'll be with Luna… I blush lightly and smile.
"Lucky you, Kai. You have the most talented person here to mentor you…" I stick my head out looking past Luna, and I realize that Sitos was listening to our conversation. His arms are crossed, and he's turned away from us.
"Sitos, I'm not…" Suddenly the sound of a door resounds behind us. Moria walks down the steps.
"I assume that everyone is here, yes?" Silence follows his words. "I have the written portion of your test with me. Your time limit is one hour. Come hand it in to me when you're done and wait in your seat for the practical portion afterward. The instructions for the Mana test will come after the theory exam. Remember to wait for the results of the test before heading off towards a Mana bonding class of your choice. Good luck, everyone."
And with that, Moria hands out the tests and sits in a chair in front of the room. I stare down to the exam in front of me on a desk attached to my chair. Hmm…this test is easier than I thought…
I instantly write down the answers to everything as soon as I read them. The types of Evocation magic? That's easy…Fire…Water…Lightning…Earth…Wind…Light…Dark…
When I'm done with the test, I stand up, walk to Moria and hand him my paper. As I'm walking back, Luna walks toward me. I smile, and she reciprocates as we make eye contact. I glance around the room. Everyone seems to be working on the test. Was I the first one done…? That can't be right… It's been nearly…half an hour?
I sit back down on my seat and restlessly move my heel up and down. Is it over yet?! I wanna take the Mana test!
Luna walks back to her seat. I rest my head on the desk and stare at Luna sitting beside me. Initially, she doesn't notice, but then she quirks an eyebrow at me. I smile broadly, and she reciprocates it. Maybe waiting here a bit longer won't be so bad…
I think Sitos sneaks a few glances toward me, but I ignore it.
Soon enough, Moria announces, "Alright, time is up! Anyone still have their test?"
My eyes wander around the room. Silence follows his words and no one moves. Moria continues, "Now it is time for the practical. Over here there are two magic items prepared about two feet spaced apart from each other. Your task is to stand on this line over here…"
There's a faint line drawn on the floor. "…and supply some Mana to both of these devices from a distance. You will have to command your Mana so that it reaches the magic item. When a sufficient amount of Mana is absorbed by the device, it will release a ball of water into the air. Make sure to activate both of the magic items at the same time for no deductions in that category. You're allowed to use both arms for this test, and that's all the rules."
What…? That's it…? I sigh and rest my head on the desk, but then I raise my eyebrows in light of an idea. I raise my head to listen to Moria again. "… I have the names of all the leaders in this jar, and I will pull out a random name to decide which group will go first…"
Come on… Let it be our group! I clench my fists as I bounce both of my legs up and down. Moria sticks his hand into the jar creating crumpling noise that echoes around the room.
After shuffling for several seconds, he takes out a small scrap of paper and reads, "Luna… Your group will go first."
A grin surfaces on my face as he reads the name. Yes! I need to ask Moria a question…
Before I get a chance to ask, Luna stands up and walks forward. "I'll go first!"
"Very well." Moria sits back in his chair as Luna walks over to the line. Luna places both of her arms straight in front of her, with each palm facing the magic devices. She stays in that same position for a second. Scrap Mana comes out of her palms in a straight line toward the devices. A steady wave of faint light blue supplies the magic items for several seconds. Both magic items release a ball of water in the air. It travels fairly fast reaching the ceiling in just a few seconds and hits the stone ceiling, splashing water down below that gets Luna, Moria, and those sitting in front of the class a little wet.
"Well done, Luna! You get a perfect 100!" Moria exclaims as he claps his hands. The crowd around the room claps and whistles.
"So that's the genius, Luna, everyone talks about right?"
"Yeah, don't you remember the first day last year? She scored the highest on the Mana capacity test!" Various students comment as she sits back in her seat.
"Good job, Luna!"
"Thank you, Kai. Good luck on yours!"
"Okay, but don't be upset when I beat your score!" Suddenly a feeling of déjà vu hits me. I cock an eyebrow, thinking back on my first day here.
Luna laughs lightly. With a smile, she responds genuinely, "I won't be surprised… You're actually hiding your real strength, right?"
I blush and gulp. Next, I'll go!
But again, someone beats me to it. Sitos stands up and takes his test. Subsequently, he scores a 95. Drugo receives a 90 and Marin gets a 92. This is where Hiro will interrupt me forcing me to go last… I might as well wait here until it's finally my turn…
Several seconds pass. No one makes a noise or goes to the front of the room. On my left, Hiro is staring at his desk next to Sitos. I stare at him as I knit my eyebrows together.
"Excuse me…who is next?"
"Hiro? Are you gonna take the test now?"
"Huh? Oh, yeh… I guess the great me will hafta show ya how it's done!"
He gets up and makes his way to the line, but he trips on nothing and falls. I put my hand to my face and frown. Oh, god…
By the time I look, he already has his chest puffed out, already pouring out his Mana. Soon after, he receives his score.
"98! Good job!" I smile as Moria announces his score.
Oh, I was worried for nothing… Finally, no one will interrupt me! My heart beats rapidly as I get up and walk toward the line.
"I don't expect ya to beat my score, Kai. Just make sure not to fail," Hiro says as he pats me on the back when he walks past me. I force a smile and then reset my facial expressions as I face forward.
"Your name is Kai, right? I do not know how hard this test will be for you since I have never seen someone with all E's in the Academy before…"
Light laughing echoes around the room. "This guy is Kai! Remember from the first day of class?"
"Haha yeah, the talentless guy who's scared of carrots right?"
"What kinda show will he give us this time? Maybe, he'll show us his true power this time!"
I ignore the remarks I'm used to hearing by now. The light laughter explodes into more intense laughing. I turn around. Sitos and company are smiling with crossed arms. I raise my head as I point a finger toward the middle of the room. "Yeah! Today, you'll witness my real power! I didn't want you guys to feel bad on the first day, so I didn't show you!"
I turn around and face Moria again, but not without people throwing offensive comments at me. I only smirk, not letting any of them faze me. "Moria, I have a question."
"Hmm? What is it?"
"This test is too easy for me… Can you make the test harder so I can get bonus points?"
"My… I was thinking of making this test easier for you, but you want to make it harder?"
I furrow my eyebrows and stare into his eyes. "Yes, please give me the hardest test you can."
"It looks like you are serious… Sure, on one condition… I will score more harshly, and if you score less than a perfect you automatically fail…but if you score a perfect, then I will add some more points for you depending on how much you impress me. Do you still want to proceed?"
"What the hell Kai! What're ya doin'?!" Hiro exclaims.
I ignore him and respond, "Yeah."
For some reason after hearing my answer, Moria walks towards the two magic devices.
"Shut up and watch, Hiro."
"Ow, that hurts, Sitos!"
"I am going to add an obstacle for you as well." Moria puts his hands on the ground and soon after, a stone wall appears all around the two magic items, leaving only the space above the magic items open. While walking toward his seat he says, "Now, take the test."
I stand on the line and raise my right hand in front of me. I keep my palm facing the stone wall as I point all of my digits towards the space above the magic devices. Hmm… I'll break down some of my Mana and release it.
A new idea sparks in my head. Oh wait… I should be fine as long as they don't see my Mana, right…? That wall's gonna work toward my advantage. I smirk while letting out a few giggles. While deeply focusing on the two magic items, I continue to program the instructions into my Mana before letting it out. Finally, I release it, turn around, and then walk back towards my seat all while smirking.
My group gives me strange looks as I sit back down on my seat. I cross my arms as I look at Moria, who has his mouth open wide. He doesn't say anything when he suddenly stands up; knocking the chair down while blankly staring at the walls he created. I'm satisfied…with this…
"What? Why didn't you do anything?"
"Hey! Why don't you show us yer power, Kai?"
While still smirking, I ignore them as I stare at the two magic items in front of the room.
"He's obviously just too shocked of being a fai—" The Mana I released finally activates, subsequently triggering the devices. A roaring burst of noise can be heard, and soon after, two enormously oversized water balls simultaneously appear and take off towards the ceiling at a speed at least three times as fast as before. They're so colossal that the diameters of the spheres overlap each other. They rocket and finally collide with the ceiling, releasing another deafening explosion as the entire room begins to shake.
Screaming and chaos erupts as a large amount of water violently splash across the room, probably capable of drenching the furthest seated students wet. I gawk at the wave of water heading my way. Whoa! I didn't think it would be this powerful!
I close my eyes and mouth as the wave of water hits me. When it completely passes, my face melts into a grin, and I laugh loudly. The screams have ended, and I only hear myself laughing. I stop laughing and look around me. Everyone simply gapes in silence. I feel uncomfortable with the silence, so I exclaim, "Hahaha! You see, this is my true strength! So, what score do I receive?"
Moria is still standing in the same place as he was, still gaping at the space above the magic items. Several seconds pass before I ask again, "Teacher Moria…?"
"Oh, yes…umm…that was…" He finally moves from his position and faces me, awkwardly shaking his head as he rubs his forehead with the tip of his fingers. "Ahem… I did not think you would be able to even activate the devices; you have well exceeded my expectations… You deserve 200 points."
"Yeah!" I yell as I clutch my fist and raise it into the air all while grinning.