Episode 101 – First Round End
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 Accelerate 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?
He had no idea that those red petals came from the flowers of Razorblood, a notorious plant that fed on blood. On the outside, Razorblood looked like a harmless and beautiful bush with juicy fruits surrounded by countless flowers. However, when the creatures attempted to get its tasty fruit, those soft and delicate flowers would turn into razor blades.
The secret of the transformation of soft petals into sharp and deadly weapons lay in the mana concentration within the petals. When the mana within the petals surpassed a certain threshold, the properties of the petals would change. Razorblood plant needed only to channel mana into its flowers, and in the next second, it would be bathing in the blood of its enemies.
The legends say that Razorblood flowers were originally white, but because they were always drenched in blood, the blood had seeped into them turning them crimson.
And while those crimson petals were now drinking the blood of Rhur’s enemy, on the other side of the arena, Deora stood with his hands crossed radiating an air of might.
He looked at the person next to him provocatively, as if daring him to try and attack him but made no move to start the fight.
The man that was in the middle, between Deora and Nelaira, hesitated in his choice who to fight. Nelaira was a female, so he didn’t feel comfortable fighting against her, but on the other hand, she was an elibu and as such considered an easy opponent to beat.
His moment of hesitation caused him to miss his chance to fight Nelaira, who had chosen to fight with a female on her other side. And thus, since everyone else had started fighting, the man had no other choice but to pick Deora, who was the only one who hadn’t fought yet.
The man released several daggers from his belt and Accelerated them in an arc towards Deora. He then followed, flying towards Deora with a spear in hand.
Deora looked at the daggers condescendingly, choosing to ignore them, and then averted his eyes towards the charging man. By the time the daggers reached Deora, the man had arrived several meters away from him, aiming to exploit the moment in which Deora will be forced to guard against the daggers.
However, he never expected that Deora wouldn’t attempt to guard against the daggers at all. In fact, he didn’t even attempt to dodge. Deora’s yellow eyes flashed, and suddenly a loud sizzling sound exploded outwards from Deora followed by a cloud of steam, swallowing both him and his opponent inside a dense curtain of mist.
After the initial eruption, there were no other sounds to be heard. No slashing, parrying or any other sound of battle. It was as if Deora and his opponent weren’t fighting at all.
When the steam cleared, what was revealed was Deora standing in the same position as before, surrounded by a circle of molten earth. The air swirling around him was so hot that it caused a glaringly obvious heat distortion. Though, no matter how distorted his surroundings got, one thing was crystal clear – there was no sign of his opponent or the daggers he had released.
Deora remained standing there with his hands crossed. His yellow eyes arrogantly measured his remaining opposition while his red hair flickered upwards like flames. No, not just like flames, his hair was literally on fire!
However, even though it was on fire, it didn’t seem to be burning, leaving everyone who saw it with a puzzled expression. If the hair wasn’t burning, then what was fueling the flames? Transforming mana into flames a.k.a. conjuring, wasn’t something that could be achieved through the usage of augmentation magic. Conjuring was a specialty of transmutation magic.
The circle of lava around Deora testified to the fact that he had used augmentation magic to raise the temperature of his surroundings to an astonishing degree. It was so high that both the daggers and his unsuspecting opponent melted as soon as they entered it, coupled with the speed at which Deora cast the spell on his surroundings, it left no time for his opponent to even cast a temperature isolation magic on himself.
Deora’s awe-inspiring fiery appearance left Kiel feeling unsettled. To Kiel, those beautiful flames flickering around Deora looked anything but beautiful.
To say that Kiel hated fire would be an understatement. Seeing those harmless looking flame tongues caused a knot to press down on Kiel’s stomach.
Kiel let out a long sigh and averted his eyes to the ground, trying to stop his blood from boiling. He needed to stay clear headed. He couldn’t afford to be affected by his personal dislike of fire.
His eyes settled on the glass dagger dropped by the opponent he had killed previously. The mana the mage had imbued it with had dissipated already. After a brief moment of hesitation, Kiel made the dagger fly into his hand. Upon closer inspection, he could see it was coated with a thin layer of a greenish substance.
Kiel wasn’t well versed in poison, so he didn’t know what the dagger was dipped in, but he didn’t need to know what it was to know that it would be bad news to whoever got cut with the dagger.
Kiel’s eyes flashed with a faint chill, and he stealthily pocketed the dagger. Besides his sword, he had no other weapons, which was a big disadvantage when compared to Rhur who not only had hundreds of Razorblood petals, but also a sword that was a powerful magic artifact. And that’s without including the other things Rhur was hiding in his pouches.
After pocketing the dagger, Kiel once again looked around the arena towards the other participants.
The sand had barely started slipping through the hourglass, yet out of the original 10 participants, only half were left – Kiel, Rhur, Nelaira, Deora, and Zor.
Zor was still sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed, showing no intention to participate in the battle. Deora was trying to look awe inspiring in his pool of lava. Nelaira was calmly looking around, trying to decide who to fight next, and Rhur… Rhur was flying in Kiel’s direction.
High up, in the VIP seats of the arena, sat four people dressed in white and purple professor uniforms. If Kiel were here, he’d recognize them to be the same people he had seen sleeping in the egg chairs.
The first one was a burly argel covered in scars who made the regular professor uniform look out of place on his large body. His crimson hair was styled in a crew cut with zig-zagging orange stripes on the side.
The second one was a solemn, dangerous looking argel with emotionless gray eyes and black hair with silver stripes tied at the back.
The third was, surprisingly, a pale-faced elibu female with venomous looking dark blue eyes and wavy chocolate brown hair tied in a loose up-do.
The fourth was a thin, young man with chestnut brown eyes and a layered hairstyle of which each layer was colored in a different shade of green.
The examiners carefully observed Kiel, only occasionally glancing at the other participants. When they saw Rhur Rroda stopping to chat with Kiel, the young man with green hair couldn’t help but comment: “Are they teaming up? Is that even allowed? Was there a mistake in exam setup?”
A burly argel covered with scars started laughing uproariously. “I don’t know if he is really lucky or really unlucky!”
An elibu female with cold sapphire blue eyes cracked her knuckles. “I’d say he is unlucky. It is only natural to find another examine to team up with. Every year examinees attempt to team up. Having someone from the same family makes no difference in the end. However, what does make a difference is having a near-unbeatable opponent.”
The burly argel snapped his head towards the elibu, a vein pulsing on his forehead. “What do you mean ‘near unbeatable’?! There is nothing ‘near’ about it. He is unbeatable. Period.”
Coldness flashed in the female’s eyes. “There is no one that is unbeatable. But, it is true that I’ve never seen anyone manage to beat Zor Arite.”
The burly man sighed, melancholy flickering in his eyes. “Of course you haven’t. I’ve fought Zor several times back in my Muni days. Never managed to beat him. Such a pity that I no longer have a chance to settle the score.”
The female snorted derisively. “As if you’d manage to settle it…”
The burly man’s head snapped back to her direction and was just about the yell “What did you say?!” when the green haired man interrupted him with an exclamation of surprise. “He is that strong? How come I’ve never heard of him?”
The burly man’s anger was instantly replaced by contempt as he snarled. “He was the leader of the golden generation 20 years ago. All of us old timers know his name but you, the younger generation, were still playing house back then.”
The green haired man furrowed his eyebrows. “Everyone has heard of the golden generation, but I haven’t heard of Zor Arite.”
The burly man’s face twisted into a grimace of regret. “If he hadn’t died prematurely there would be no way that there would be people like you who haven’t heard of his name…”
The atmosphere in the room turned uncomfortable.
The female was the first to speak up again, changing the subject and dispelling the air of solemnity. “What are your opinions on the boy?”
“It’s too early to tell.” The green haired elibu commented.
The burly man disagreed. “He is too green. Earlier he almost got finished off by that sneak attack.”
The green haired man’s face fell. Hearing the burly man say “too green” always put him in a bad mood. Mostly because the burly man used that phrase often to refer to him, which coupled with his green hair color made it into a pun. He couldn’t help but protest: “I think that he noticed it. However, he chose to ignore it. Perhaps he was sure that it couldn’t pierce his skin.”
“Regardless if he noticed it or not, choosing not to dodge it was too reckless. The dagger is poisoned. One graze and his exam would be over.” The burly man frowned.
“Hmmm, I wonder about that. His judgment seems solid. He picked the easiest opponent out of the 9.” The pale-faced female added.
“He didn’t hesitate to finish him off at all. It’s quite admirable.” A smile graced the lips of the green haired elibu reaching all the way to his chestnut eyes.
“It’s good that he didn’t let mercy cloud his judgment.” The burly man mused gruffly.
The fourth examiner, an argel with emotionless gray eyes and an omnipresent dangerous frown didn’t join the conversation at all.
Down in the arena, Rhur had reached Kiel and initiated a conversation. “Well done, little brother. There are only three of them left. How about this, let’s quickly take care of those two…” He pointed to Deora and Nelaira. “And then let’s join hands to beat the third one.” He pointed to Zor.
“Agreed.” Kiel nodded. “I’ll take the girl and you take the ginger.”
“No, no, no.” Rhur shook his head. “I’ll take the girl and you take the ginger.”
Kiel’s eyebrow twitched. “Don’t tell me you are thinking of flirting in such a situation? Older brother, get your act together.”
Rhur clutched his heart and looked at Kiel with a hurt expression. “You misunderstand. I am only thinking of your benefit, little brother. Bullying the fairer sex is not something to be proud of. But since I am the older brother, I have to look after you which includes taking upon myself the undesirable tasks.”
How thoughtful… Kiel stared at Rhur speechlessly trying to stop himself from shooting out a sarcastic remark. “Older brother… your worry is unnecessary. Let’s be logical here. The ginger should be a perfect fit for your abilities. If you use your Sparkbloom petals he’d be easily dealt with.”
Other than the Razorblood petals Rhur had used earlier, he often used another variety of petals that was even more dangerous – the Sparkb(l)oom petals.