Episode 100 – Razorblood
The man never expected for the spikes he had cut off previously to be the most lethal ones. Not only did they remain flying in the air instead of dropping to the ground, but they even shoot towards his chest with flawless precision.
At the moment that the man sliced off the tips of the first two spikes, Kiel had already started casting an Acceleration spell on the discarded tips. However, the man was too distracted by the spikes he hadn’t cut yet and the danger of the approaching Kiel, to notice such a slight change of mana flow.
And even if he had managed to detect it, he wouldn’t have been able to dodge a pincer attack from two sides. If he chose to guard against the small flying spikes, then he would have failed to guard against Kiel’s slash which was perfectly coordinated with the attack of the spikes.
If the inconspicuous dagger that the man had sneakily shot towards Kiel had managed to reach Kiel in time, perhaps the outcome of this battle would have been different.
Kiel’s eyes never left the man. Even when his ears caught the clatter of the dagger falling near him, his eyes still didn’t leave the man’s body. He wouldn’t give his opponent a chance of retaliation, no matter how slim. Even before the man’s body managed to fully slump to the floor, Kiel had sent another slash his way, separating his head from his body.
After ensuring that the argel was “deader than dead”, Kiel turned away from the corpse, swiping his sword from left to right swiftly. With a sharp swish, this seemingly meaningless slash made the blood soiling the sword splash outwards, returning the blood red sword to its original silver color.
Kiel’s cold, emotionless eyes surveyed the remainder of the battlefield. His body stood tall with his back straight. His composure was declaring that this short skirmish couldn’t be considered anything in his eyes. That the result of it was completely within his expectations.
His poise was flawless, his aura was chillingly icy. Yet no one knew that under this superficial calm, his heart was beating wildly.
Ba-dump, Ba-dump, Ba-dump. His heartbeat echoed inside his head, overpowering all other noise.
The bloodshot eyes of the man he had just killed lingered inside his head and the stench of blood was so unbearable that he stopped breathing through his nose entirely.
He had never killed a person before. He had watched people die in the arena, so he was used to the gruesome sight. He thought that the entire process would be simple, that he wouldn’t be phased by it. After all, what he was killing was simply a Replica. Regardless of whether he killed it or not, a Replica would disappear after the 30 minutes were up.
He told himself that Replicas weren’t really people and that he wasn’t really killing them. But everything was just too real. The sound of blood dripping down the spikes to the hard ground. The emotions of pain and disbelief reflected in the man’s eyes. The uncontrollable shivering of the man’s body before it completely stilled. The atrocious metallic stench of blood assaulting Kiel’s nostrils.
He had heard it, he had seen it, he had smelled it before. Yet, why was it that this time it felt different? Why was it that he found it hard to bear when it came as a result of his own actions?
He wasn’t wrong to kill this person. If he didn’t do it, some other participant would have done it. He would have died either way. In fact, this person wasn’t a person at all. It was a Replica.
But a Replica is also a person.
A small voice whispered inside his head.
It bleeds, it thinks, it feels. Just like everyone else. No different than a normal person.
And this person, whose life you ended would never again see the light of day again.
Even if the Replica Dungeon created an identical Replica at a later time, that Replica and this Replica would not be the same. This Replica was dead forever.
Kiel gripped the handle of his sword so tightly that his fingers turned white. He had hoped that this Replica would disappear when he killed it. Hoped that he wouldn’t have to look at its miserable corpse any longer. In the Arena, Memory artifacts would instantly reconstruct the body of the slain party so the audience wouldn’t be able to see the gory sight for long.
Yet, this wasn’t the Arena, this was the Replica Dungeon. And the corpse of the Replica remained there unmoving as if to prove that it was very much real and not an illusion. That it had been alive and now it was not.
This Replica was created for my sake. It lived for my sake and died for my sake. There is nothing wrong with it.
Kiel argued. His eyes landed on the small near transparent dagger, lying lifelessly next to his feet. Even if I didn’t kill it, would it have spared me?
Those with an intention to kill should be prepared to be killed.
The rest of the participants of the exam stared at Kiel with mixed emotions. The ease with which Kiel dispatched one of them left the rest feeling unsettled. In their eyes, it seemed as if Kiel just picked this person at random to attack, just because he was the closest one to him, not caring about whether this person was strong or not.
Kiel exuded sharp coldness and confidence bordering on arrogance. He stared at them defiantly as if asking them to hurry up, as if asking them “what are you waiting for? Come at me.”.
Yet none of them knew that that was exactly what Kiel wanted them to think. No one realized that Kiel picked this person intentionally. That he picked him because he didn’t recognize his face, thus this person should have been among the weaker ones. That he picked him because the reaction of this person to the previous beheading wasn’t pretty, which made Kiel believe that he wasn’t an experienced fighter.
None of them realized that this defiant, cold look of his was just a mask covering his inner turmoil.
Several seconds passed, and then, almost simultaneously, Rhur Rroda and Nelaira Helyot made their moves.
Rhur grabbed a handful of something from his pocket. When he opened his fist, countless small, red petals were revealed. He smiled towards Nelaira, who was the prettiest female in this batch of participants, and blew on the petals charmingly, as if blowing a kiss to his lower.
However, even though he was gazing towards Nelaira, his petals floated towards the participant closest to the man Kiel had just killed.
You can still flirt in this kind of situation?? Kiel stared at Rhur speechlessly.
Nelaira, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have noticed Rhur’s gestures at all. She concentrated her attention on the female to her right. She flicked her wrist, and as if responding to her gesture, hundreds of sharp icicles condensed from thin air on top of the female and started raining down like a stream of needles.
Kiel was familiar with Rhur’s fighting style, for he had fought him before. Rhur was extremely proficient in using a sword and in fact, the reason why Kiel picked the same weapon was because he wanted to one day surpass Rhur. However, what was the most dangerous about Rhur’s fighting style wasn’t his exquisite swordsmanship, but rather, his ranged attack and control abilities.
Rhur’s opponent looked around himself warily, observing the blood red petals. In the end, he chose to move backward to create some distance between himself and the incoming petals.
He didn’t know what purpose they served, but whatever it was, it wouldn’t be good for him. Although they looked completely ordinary and even his mana sense told him that other than being filled with Rhur’s mana the petals contained no spells, he found it hard to believe that someone would choose to blow petals just to look cool.
Do they have poisonous pollen on them? The man speculated and covered his nose and mouth with his scarf.
And indeed, he was right to be cautious, although those petals weren’t magical artifacts, they were in no way ordinary for they came from a very particular plant by the name of Razorblood.
Rhur didn’t wait for his petals to reach his opponent, in fact, he seemed to ignore them as if they were completely irrelevant. He smiled charmingly and flew swiftly towards his opponent with his sword drawn.
Meanwhile, Nelaira’s opponent Accelerated sideways, barely avoiding the icicles dropping down from the sky. Unfortunately for the girl, Nelaira had taken into account the possibility of her enemy dodging and, in fact, had already predicted in which direction the female would escape towards. Therefore, the girl ended up escaping from the frying pan into the fire and she slammed headfirst into a rock wall that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Nelaira lived up to her family name of Helyot. Only a family of master architects would be able to Morph a wall from the ground up and transmute the earth into solid rock with such incredible speed.
Truly, the rumors are not exaggerated at all. Helyots have indeed brought their Morphing and Material Transmutation magic to its pinnacle. Unrivaled under the Shield! Kiel thought.
Slamming with full speed into a rock wall left Nelaira’s poor female opponent feeling as if someone had struck her head with a hammer. Her head buzzed and the splitting headache made her unable to concentrate on the fight. She stumbled back dizzily almost falling on her bottom.
Regrettably, the place she fell towards was exactly the place from which she was trying to escape – the patch of earth turned into a pin cushion by countless icicles. Nelaira didn’t ease up on her opponent, on the contrary, she quickly morphed all of the small icicles together into a giant icicle that ended up creating a head sized hole through the chest of the poor girl.
And thus, Nelaira’s opponent remained lying there lifelessly, suspended above the ground. The only parts of her that managed to reach the earth were the abundant droplets of blood which slid down the giant icicle like snakes.
Kiel shifted his attention from the man he just killed to the ongoing battles. As his mind became preoccupied with analysing the battles, his racing heart slowly settled down.
He expressionlessly evaluated Nelaira and attempted to come up with a strategy to deal with her. He wasn’t sure if Nelaira predicted that the girl would ram head first into the wall or if it was an unexpected bonus. Because, if the girl had hit the wall with any other part of her body, even if all of her bones in that part of the body shattered, she would have still been able to Accelerate away.
However, the female just happened to hit her head. And a head injury was the most dangerous non-lethal injury a mage could sustain, for it compromised their ability to cast magic.
And thus, Nelaira’s victory was even quicker than Kiel’s.
In the brief time Nelaira took to dispatch her opponent, Rhur crossed swords with his own opponent. Well, actually, his opponent was an axe wielder, so they didn’t technically cross swords, but the distinction made no difference. From the moment they clashed, the man was on the losing side, constantly retreating.
Rhur’s slashes were extremely fast and unpredictable, coming towards his opponent from inconceivable angles. They had exchanged less than 5 blows, but the man already found it extremely hard to persist. His back was drenched with cold sweat, and no matter how he wanted to retaliate, to show his superior body strength, he could only continue to defend.
He knew that one moment of carelessness would spell his demise.
Unfortunately, he had already unknowingly made that careless mistake. He was concentrating so hard on defending from Rhur that he had completely forgotten about the seemingly harmless petals surrounding them.
A split second passed, and before anyone could realize what had happened, the axe-wielding man was gripping his throat with wide eyes threatening to fall out of their sockets. Through his fingers, streams of blood continued to pour out, and no matter how the man tried to stop the blood from flowing, it was all useless.
Before he could even fly away Rhur’s sword had already pierced through his heart like an arrow.
Kiel was more focused on Nelaira’s fight, so he too didn’t see what had happened, but he didn’t need to see it to know what happened. Rhur was very proficient in casting Acceleration, and he could cast it so fast that it was near instantaneous, not letting his opponent react to it in time.
He chose a nearby petal as his spell target and launched it flying in an arc across his opponent’s neck. No doubt, his timing was perfect, choosing the moment in which his opponent would be unable to defend against it.
Though, even if his opponent could have defended against it by making a sacrifice, he wouldn’t have done so. How could he have known that a soft petal under a simple Acceleration spell would be powerful enough to slash through his spell-reinforced skin?