Episode 66 – The Arena
Elaru burst into her designated classroom with glee. Unlike the classrooms where she was previously taking the tests, which were small with movable desks and chairs, the current classroom was a big auditorium for large lectures with many rows of benches surrounding the podium in a 120-degree arc.
Elaru found the seat marked with her number and sat down, only to realize that everyone in the room was staring at her.
Was it because of her examinee number that was considered unlucky? Was it because she was a natural attention magnet with her beautiful, otherworldly appearance? Was it because she wore her quest seeking equipment full of weapons?
Perhaps it was because of her powerful, charismatic aura? Or because her excitement and glee radiated from her in waves through her mana?
Maybe it was because her body curvature was too eye-catching, especially for the male population?
It was probably because of the large red stain on her shirt.
If it were any other girl, she would feel shy and uncomfortable being seen in stained clothes. Her cheeks would burn, and she would look down.
Not Elaru though. She wore it with pride as if it was a mark of honor. She looked at the people gazing at her and gave them a confident, brilliant smile. The smile that was more radiant than the sun and more beautiful than the night sky.
Naturally, everyone that saw it averted their eyes, pink and red blush spreading on many faces. However, many of those embarrassed looks were drawn back to her as soon as her eyes moved to scan another individual.
They couldn’t help but stare. However, they didn’t like being caught doing it.
Both girls and boys avoided her gaze. Both girls and boys equally blushed when she smiled at them.
But the attention didn’t bother Elaru at all. She could have been standing naked, and she would still radiate that confidence that disregarded anyone else’s opinion.
While sweeping the room with her gaze, Elaru’s noticed Arion sitting a few desks away from her. He waved at her and grinned widely.
She waved back and continued with her sweep until her gaze landed on the supervising teacher. Surprisingly, it was neither Zerel nor Deora.
It was a female elibu in her thirties with long wavy, marine blue hair. The woman was petite in build and very pretty. She seemed to be a patient and kind type of a teacher. When Elaru’s eyes landed on the lady, the lady smiled kindly and averted her deep green eyes away with a slight blush.
Elaru’s bright smile widened, her teal eyes glittering mischievously.
Elaru didn’t have the standard type of education, a written test was a concept unfamiliar to her. But luck seemed to be on her side this evening. If she didn’t understand something, she was sure that the nice professor lady wouldn’t mind helping her out.
The situation in Kiel’s classroom wasn’t much different from the situation in Elaru’s classroom.
Saying that Kiel was a devilishly handsome individual would be selling him short. He attracted gazes wherever he went. His cold charm attracted girls like fragrant flowers attracted bees.
Kiel sat straight, not scanning the room at all, as to avoid meeting the eyes of anyone he didn’t like (which would surely be everyone). Nonetheless, he still managed to meet the eyes of some bold females who didn’t quickly look away like the rest but smiled at him “charmingly” instead.
Kiel returned a polite smile. They swooned. He hoped they failed the exam.
A professor was already in the room when Kiel entered. He remembered him from last Friday when he came to sign up for the exam. It was that kind looking argel that reminded him of a pechuh, with chocolate colored hair and eyes.
He sat there, smiling brightly at everyone. Before Kiel had graced them with his presence, most of the girls had their fawning gazes on… what was his name? Ahon Tonrai? He was handsome and had a gentle, calming aura which made people subconsciously like him at first glance.
Kiel had finished his test long before the time ran out and spent the remaining time under a tree in the courtyard with a book in hand.
Elaru and him didn’t agree on a specific place where to meet. Previously, they had forgotten to set a meeting place after their mana control exam (the annoying presence of Arion Urwin was to blame). However, after the exam, Elaru still managed to find him without any problem.
That’s when he realized that agreeing upon a meeting place was pointless. Like a trackog, no matter where he hid, she would hone in on him and find him. To her, he probably looked like a burning torch of blue constantly poking her in the eye no matter where he was on campus.
Kiel almost didn’t notice when a large mop of red entered his vision. The red of her hair blended perfectly with the crimson red sky.
Kiel checked left and right but didn’t see any trace of Arion Urwin.
“Where’s your shadow?” He couldn’t help but wonder.
Elaru blinked her long eyelashes. “What?”
“I mean Arion.”
“Oh!” Her eyes lit up in realization, then she smirked deviously. “I didn’t know you’d miss him so. The next time I will definitely bring him along.”
Kiel glared half-heartedly and got up from his seated position. “Did you finally realize how irritating his presence was and decided to intentionally avoid him?”
“Yes.” Elaru nodded. “I dodged him because we can’t go out of Muni the usual way but instead have to turn invisible. Naturally, we can’t let him tag along.”
Ah, so that is why.
Kiel let Elaru latch onto his arm as she usually did whenever she intended to turn them invisible. The feeling wasn’t bad at all, once he got used to it.
It helped that Elaru never actually plastered herself to him, or acted clingily. Her way of doing it seemed… just right. Her grip was gentle but firm. Not too tight, not too light.
He never had the feeling like he was being dragged along. Rather, that they were walking side by side in a comfortable and relaxed manner.
It was a subtle, nonobtrusive feeling that one would frequently forget. In fact, often times, they would remain like this even after the invisibility had been lifted. Most of the time, Kiel would remember this comfortable sensation only after the warmth disappeared.
“Do you have any places you want to go to today?” Kiel decided not to beat around the bush and asked right away. Yesterday she had dragged him along to the ring shop and after that to Black Pearl restaurant. He hoped she didn’t have any similar plans today.
Elaru looked at him strangely before starting to laugh musically. The sound of her laughter was a pleasant sound like no other. People they passed by turned around in a daze, looking left and right trying to find the source of the soft heartwarming laughter.
“If that line came from anyone else, I’d think they were asking me on a date.”
Kiel shot her another glare. “Luckily, you know better. Now answer the question.”
Elaru smiled mischievously. “No. I don’t have any plans today. Why? Do you have plans?”
“Yes. I chose battle royale for my practical exam. However, while I do have some experience in martial arts, my battling experience is limited.”
He suddenly glared at Elaru. “If I had known earlier that I’d be participating in Muni exams this year, I would have thoroughly prepared. But since I am out of time, the best I can do is to observe as many battles as I can and try to learn from them as much as possible.”
The two had finally left the premises of Muni and flew up above Ashar. Kiel was just about to continue his explanation when Elaru interrupted him.
She pointed to a large colosseum like structure in the central district of Ashar and grinned ear to ear. “To the Arena!”
If someone grabbed a random person on the street and asked them what was everyone’s favorite source of entertainment, be it children, adults or old people, their answer would always be the same – the Arena.
The only place where killing and harming others was perfectly legal, and in fact, encouraged.
Of course, the reason for that was because people who died inside the Arena didn’t stay dead. The backbone of every Arena was a divine artifact which held power to revert bodies to their previous state. Even if the body of the mage was completely disintegrated, this fate-defying Aetherneal artifact could undo it.
Unfortunately, divine artifacts didn’t grow on trees. They were ancient, priceless, extremely rare treasures, the number of which was very limited. Therefore, because the number of similar restoring artifacts could be counted with fingers of two hands, only the large cities had an Arena.
The Arena was officially called the Warlord Hall and was run by the Tanyer noble family, however, everyone just called it the Arena. Just like everyone called the home city of the Tanyers “the Arena city” instead of Malia.
The Arena was a conspicuous circular building so wide that one could fit an entire airbalt stadium inside.
One would expect a building with 30 floors to tower above every other building in Ashar.
One would be wrong.
That’s because the floors of the Arena didn’t go upwards towards the sky but downwards towards the earth. Instead of being a tower, it was actually a pit that went deep underground.
Whenever an earthquake struck the city, people would joke that it was caused by a fierce battle taking place in the Arena.
Whether fierce battles could actually cause earthquakes was something Kiel didn’t know. Just like how he didn’t know what floor to go to.
Ever since the two entered the ground floor, which acted as the reception hall and the waiting room, Kiel remained rooted to the spot and fixedly stared at the large boards up on the walls that included information about ticket prices and the timetable of upcoming battles.
There were one vs. one fights and team battles that went from 2 vs. 2 and up to 8 vs. 8. There were tournaments and restricted battles which imposed limitations on mages such as the type of magic used. There was even a special battle format that consisted of a large number of mages raging a simultaneous all-out battle against each other.
Thirty available floors and a myriad of different available events made Kiel unable to reach a decision on which kind of ticket he should purchase.
They sold general purpose daily tickets for specific floors, which allowed access to regular matches. And then there were special tickets for special events and matches featuring famous warlocks.
Mages that made their living through fighting mage battles in the Arena were called warlocks. All the powerful ones were famous celebrities often featured in the Warlord magazine. The tickets to their matches would reach exorbitant prices, and nobles would often have fierce struggles to get front row seats.
This wasn’t Kiel’s first time visiting the Arena, but it was his first time buying his own tickets. So, he needed to familiarize himself with everything that was available first.
Elaru patiently waited for approximately half a minute, before she sighed and interrupted his pondering. “You should start by watching the regular matches. Choose the floor and buy the appropriate daily ticket.”
“Thank you, captain obvious!” Kiel snapped.
Elaru looked at him with her eyes narrowed. “Don’t tell me you don’t have enough money to buy the ticket?”
Kiel’s eyebrow twitched. “It’s not that. The problem is picking the floor.”