Episode 114 – End of Kiel’s Practical Exam
And then, abruptly, the rings on Elaru’s magical egg jolted and speedily twirled themselves around the egg. The rings didn’t even stop spinning before Kiel’s barrier had completely vanished.
What did he do?! Kiel slid his hand into his pocket, simultaneously accelerating backward, his eyes wide in shock. He could feel the changes in the egg even though it had been in his pants.
He brought the artifact out, hoping he could activate it again, but the rotations of the rings had completely changed. He had no idea how to set them up again!
His plight didn’t escape Zor’s golden eyes, which grew colder and colder by the second.
He didn’t chase after Kiel, only watching him calmly.
However, that caused no relief to Kiel, for a moment later, he almost slammed his back into Zor Arite, who had, in a blink of an eye, teleported from his previous position to stand right in his path.
Kiel tried twisting his body around in midair, as to escape from the dangerous situation. However, Zor gave him no chance, his hand seized Kiel by the neck in a vice grip.
Kiel’s leg that was heading straight for Zor’s stomach paused an inch away as he heard Zor threaten: “Move an inch, and I’ll crush your neck.”
Kiel had no doubt that a person revered as a genius of his generation, would certainly have a way to decapitate him with his bare hands. He once again remembered the tip on battling Zor: “Forfeit.”
I better not make any rash moves. Kiel decided. Zor Arite obviously didn’t want him dead just yet. There might be a chance to reverse the current situation if he was patient. He still had an Acceleration spell and a Morph spell cast on his body. All he needed was a single moment of weakness. A single moment in which Zor loosened his guard.
Perhaps this close proximity wasn’t bad at all. It would make it hard for Zor to dodge his attacks if they are timed properly. If Kiel had wanted to enter close range combat with Zor, he would be unable to do so, but now, Zor had taken the initiative.
“You might want to reconsider your previous answer. I don’t tolerate people lying to me.” Zor’s cold voice interrupted Kiel’s pondering.
What previous answer? Confusion flashed in Kiel’s mind. Was it so hard for Zor Arite to accept that he had no idea of the circumstances of his death? What arrogance! Who does he think he is? A god that everyone needs to worship?
“There is nothing to reconsider.” Kiel squeezed out between gritted teeth, doing his best to disguise the displeasure he was feeling. “All I said was the truth.”
Zor snapped his fingers and once again recast a sound isolation barrier around them.
“Alright. Then let’s stop talking about me.” Zor’s piercing golden glare could almost poke a hole through someone. “Let’s talk about you instead.”
Zor pointed towards the metal egg Kiel had been gripping tightly in his right hand. “Where did you obtain the Seed of Aegis?”
“A what?” Kiel followed Zor’s pointing finger. Elaru’s magical egg? Is that what it’s called?
At that moment, countless thoughts flashed through Kiel’s mind. How did Zor know the name of Elaru’s magical artifact?
Overwhelming curiosity struck Kiel like a hammer, chucking the exam to the back of his mind. Even if he managed to sneak an attack in, it wasn’t likely that he would be able to deal much damage to Zor Arite. Then, should he fish for information instead? Perhaps Zor could tell him some clues that could help him figure out the secret of Elaru Wayvin!
“Oh.” Kiel mused. “Are you familiar with my magical artifact?”
Unfortunately, the only response he got from Zor was him tightening his grip on Kiel’s neck.
However, Kiel didn’t panic. Zor seemed to want something from him, perhaps he could profit from this misfortune?
“I can tell you everything I know, including where I got the Seed of Aegis, but… it won’t be for free. How about it? Promise to forfeit this match, and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”
Kiel was half expecting Zor Arite to turn furious with his bargaining attempt, but instead, Zor chuckled deeply. “Nice try. Unfortunately, I have no intention to throw this fight just to satisfy my own curiosity. Me, dying by your hand, would bring shame to the Arite family, not to mention it would sully my reputation.”
He still said “my” even though he knew that he wasn’t the real Zor Arite. But even though he knew that, he felt like he was the real one. Their feelings, dreams, and aspirations were the same. Even though he was a Replica, it made no difference, he was just as real as the real Zor Arite. They were the same.
Kiel stared at Zor’s unwavering determination and it was clear to him that there was nothing he could do to make Zor change his mind. He understood how he felt. If he had been in Zor’s shoes, he would have made the same choice, even though he abhorred the majority of his own family.
But still, even if he had no family or reputation to uphold, he would still refuse to forfeit. The idea of losing his life to someone else on purpose… he just couldn’t stand it! Even the thought that his death would help some stranger get a higher score on his exams left a bitter taste in his mouth. Why should someone else have an easy time in their exam when he had suffered in it this much?
Finally, Kiel mumbled: “This artifact is not really mine. A friend lent it to me.”
No sooner had he finished speaking than Zor had asked another question: “Who is your friend?”
For a moment, Kiel hesitated. Was it really alright for him to tell the truth? Elaru didn’t give him the impression that her egg was a sensitive topic. She treated it as if it was a common object she bought from a street stall. She didn’t even try to hide that it was in her possession. If so, would it be alright if he admitted that it was hers?
It should be alright?
After all, this Zor Arite was just a Replica who would disappear forever in several minutes. Even if Kiel told him an earth-shattering secret, Zor wouldn’t be able to tell it to anyone. He had even cast a sound isolating barrier around them so that the examiners couldn’t hear their conversation.
After reaching the conclusion that he wouldn’t compromise Elaru’s safety, Kiel finally decided to admit the truth. “Her name is…”
Kiel struggled to speak through his constricted throat. “…Elaru Wayvin.”
Kiel had focused all his attention on Zor’s facial expression, so as to catch any flashes of emotions that might help him determine whether Zor found Elaru’s last name familiar. However, as it turned out, he needn’t bothered.
For Zor Arite didn’t even attempt to conceal his shock. His face froze, and he stared at Kiel in stupefaction as if he had just witnessed Kiel growing three wings, two heads, and a tail.
Zor Arite knew something!
Kiel had to restrain himself from sounding too eager, so he only opened his mouth to ask a question after several moments of silence had passed.
However, before Kiel’s voice could reach Zor Arite, the silence was broken by Zor’s uproarious laughter. “So that’s how it is…!”
It wasn’t an angry or mocking laughter, nor did it sound like he was laughing at something funny.
No, it appeared as if Zor Arite was…
Zor’s grip on Kiel’s neck slipped, and his aura turned mild, no longer pressing down on Kiel.
Kiel wasn’t sure whether Zor was letting him go on purpose or because he found it hard to clutch onto him tightly through the uncontrollable laughter.
However, it didn’t matter. Zor’s guard had clearly slipped. This was Kiel’s last chance to turn the tables around!
However, if he attempted to cast a new spell, Zor would have enough time to crush his neck. He needed a speedy attack that would leave no opportunity for Zor to dodge!
Kiel’s eyes flashed decisively.
And he concentrated on the only two spells he had cast on his own body – Morph and Accelerate.
A moment later his two hands chopped towards Zor’s hand that was clutching his neck, and his knee kicked towards Zor’s chest, all three Accelerated to their highest possible speed.
Zor’s reaction speed was shocking. He surprisingly let go of Kiel’s neck and blocked Kiel’s knee with his hand leisurely, as if to stop a child from throwing a tantrum.
However, suddenly, an ivory colored spike erupted from Kiel’s knee and passed straight through Zor’s hand like a hot knife through butter.
It didn’t stop there, it continued shooting into Zor’s chest, barely missing his heart.
Kiel had chosen to Morph his own bones and use them as weapons!
The black robes Zor was wearing turned even blacker around the place where the ivory bone pierced his chest. A small crimson snake streamed down the ivory spike.
Kiel stared at Zor in a stupor. He didn’t even attempt to dodge or block the blow!
Judging by his composed facial expression that showed no shock or panic, Kiel could tell that in Zor’s eyes, all his actions were considered as child’s play.
Zor looked at Kiel’s confused icy blue eyes and grinned widely.
If it weren’t for the fact that the blood had colored his pearly white teeth crimson, Kiel would think that the injury he inflicted was just an illusion.
In fact, it was as if Zor didn’t even notice the injury. As if Kiel was just a little pechuh baring his teeth out of helplessness, he didn’t even bother to feel angry at him.
On the contrary, he even continued the conversation nonchalantly as if there was no spike sticking out of his chest: “How close are you to Elaru Wayvin?”
Kiel didn’t know whether he should be feeling dumbfounded, insulted or appreciative.
He shook his head and concentrated on the words Zor had spoken. It couldn’t be that Zor Arite knew Elaru Wayvin? That was impossible. Elaru was 18 this year, but this Replica of Zor Arite was made 21 years ago.
Was he familiar with the Wayvin family or someone with that family name?
Kiel instinctively grabbed the hem of Zor’s shirt. “Do you know Elaru Wayvin?” The question erupted from his mouth before he could even realize what he was saying or how silly his actions seemed. He couldn’t help it, the desire to know the reason behind Zor’s strange reaction was overwhelming.
Zor’s mouth morphed into a wide grin full of hidden meaning. His lips moved slowly as if he had difficulty talking. “Elaru… ”
Kiel pricked up his ears, his heart leaped into his throat. Has the time finally arrived for him to unveil the secret of Elaru Wayvin?
“…Wayvin…” Zor’s gruff voice continued.
Kiel stared at Zor heatedly, waiting expectantly for him to finish his sentence. Zor’s mouth formed what seemed to be “is” and was just about to voice it. Kiel felt like screaming “Hurry it up!” but he didn’t dare interrupt him.
Finally, Zor voiced that “is” which he intended to voice, Kiel barely managed to hear him over the loud thumping of his own heart. Elaru Wayvin is…?
Kiel stared fixedly at Zor’s mouth trying to lip read what word he would say next.
Yet, before Zor could form the next word, his body turned into countless motes of light, slowly evaporating into nothingness.
Kiel’s eyes widened in shock. No! Nonononononono! Elaru Wayvin is what???
The disappearing image of Zor Arite never finished his sentence. The only answer Kiel got to his question was a crafty grin.
As Kiel saw that strangely familiar grin his whole body froze.
After a moment of stiffness, his head snapped back towards the hourglass.
There was no sand remaining in the upper half of the hourglass. His thirty minutes were up.
Kiel finally realized that this entire time, Zor had never intended to finish his sentence. He was teasing him all along. The bastard had feigned difficulty speaking, waiting for the last strand of sand to pass through the hourglass, so that his words would forever remain unspoken, eating away at Kiel’s heart.
No wonder he didn’t even bother dodging the attack! The time was about to expire anyway!
Kiel couldn’t help but wonder if Zor had something against him. Was this a form of revenge?
Whatever the case, Kiel had to admit that this kind of payback was incredibly cruel. To be so close to the truth and yet, for it to slip through his fingers just as he was about to reach it.
Kiel’s jaw clenched, and his hands balled into fists. He was only remotely aware that Zor wasn’t the only one which disintegrated. The world around him also turned into motes of light, vanishing into thin air. Even the blood Kiel had spit out earlier evaporated into glittering dust.
That was the last thing Kiel saw before the world in front of his eyes turned black.