Episode 67 – Choosing the Arena floor

Previously:

After they were done with their entrance exams for the day, Kiel and Elaru go to the Arena, where Kiel hopes to watch as many battles as he can and increase his experience in the field of magic battles. However, Ashar’s Arena has 30 different floors to pick from with different activities so Kiel finds it hard to choose which floor to go to.

Episode 67 – Choosing the Arena floor

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.”

The floors were separated by the general rank of warlocks participating and the types of events they were participating in. Kiel had a general idea that he probably shouldn’t pick anything below B rank, but that eliminated only half of the floors from his choice.

Elaru’s mouth shaped an “ooh” before she started pondering. “You should pick a floor running A ranked battles. Those are floors 21-24.”

Kiel’s eyebrows furrowed. “Why A-ranked? I think my level is closer to B rank than A rank. Watching A ranked battles right from the start might delay my progress.”

Elaru grinned. “As you probably already know, Muni exams are scored in a way that reaching 25 points in the practical exam would mean that the person is comparable to A+++ ranked mage. However, since the practical exam allows for a large degree of creativity and provides you ample opportunity to utilize your smarts, it is possible that you could reach 25 points while having strength below that rank. Often it is the basic spells used in an unorthodox way that makes the difference between a win and a loss.”

She continued telepathically. “If you want any chance of scoring full points, you’d need to be at least an A ranked warlock. From what I’ve observed of you while you were a non-mage, your martial arts were B rank at most, and in the period of two days it is impossible for you to reach A rank in martial arts.”

Kiel nodded in agreement. “That’s what I was thinking as well. Previously, since I had very little mana, the only way I could increase my fighting strength was to practice martial arts. Now that I don’t lack mana, things are different. Since I am more accomplished in magic than martial arts, I should adjust my fighting style to focus more on magic instead of physical attacks.”

Kiel paused and looked Elaru in the eyes. “Therefore, since I can’t reach A rank in two days and need to alter my fighting style, I should aim for the peak of B rank, and therefore watch the top of B ranked battles.”

Elaru grinned. “Who says you can’t reach A rank in two days? I said that it is impossible for you to reach A rank in martial arts. However, if you change your fighting style to focus on magic like you mentioned, it might be possible for you to become an A ranked warlock in the span of two days.”

Kiel’s legs almost gave out. As if becoming an A ranked warlock was as easy as that! It takes years of hard work and battle experience! He, on the other hand, only had two days! Two days!

Seeing Kiel’s frozen expression, Elaru decided to elaborate. “Think about it. You scored full points up to now, which means that as a mage, you are already A+++ ranked. That means that you certainly have the capabilities to reach the same rank as a warlock.

Since you already have the prerequisites, you just need to watch as many battles as you can and learn from them how to display your A+++ ranked power in battle. You are a quick study, aren’t you? It might be impossible for you to reach A+++ rank as a warlock in 2 days, but A rank or even A+ rank is possible.”

Elaru paused slightly, giving him a triumphant look. “And if you want to reach A rank you should start by watching battles of A ranked warlocks. If that goes well, later on, you can move onto S rank battles.”

Kiel resisted the urge to facepalm. “Being an A ranked warlock is very different from being an A ranked mage! Just because one is an A-ranked mage, it doesn’t mean that he has what it takes to reach the same rank as a warlock.”

Elaru rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah. But are you honestly saying that you don’t have what it takes? Even before the bond you were quick-witted, had a high reaction speed and a great natural instinct for combat. After the bond, all of it should have improved even more.”

Her words carried strong conviction. She spoke with such confidence it seemed as if she knew him better than he knew himself.

If it came from anyone else, Kiel would have thought them to be spouting infatuated meepshit. But Elaru clearly wasn’t infatuated with him nor trying to ingratiate herself to him. She wasn’t even intentionally praising him. She was just stating her opinion.

And she firmly believed in that opinion.

A tinge of pink spread across Kiel’s cheeks, and he turned his head away. She believes in my abilities this much?

Having her place her trust in him, somehow, that feeling didn’t feel bad at all.

When was the last time someone who actually understood me believed in my abilities?

Kiel searched his memory but couldn’t recall. Sure, the general populace in Beyd thought him to be a god. But those people didn’t know any better. Coming from them, those words only sounded like insults. Like rubbing salt into his wounds, only reminding him that he was merely pretending to be someone great.

But coming from Elaru who saw right through him, the effect was exactly opposite.

Kiel looked towards the boards detailing the events on the floors 21-24, but before he could inspect which events are going on there, Elaru interrupted once again.

“Floor 23 should be the best choice. I recognize the names of warlocks that are fighting there.” She read out several warlock nicknames. “Those 3 have a fighting style that is completely magic based. They should be a good material to study from.”

That was actually… impressive? Informative? Quite helpful?

Kiel gaze again dropped down to the redhead next to him. He stared at her speechlessly until she couldn’t help but ask: “What?”

“Elaru…why are you so knowledgeable regarding warlocks and the Arena?”

Elaru raised an eyebrow. “Because I, like most people, visit Arena often?”

Kiel inspected her closely. That sounded reasonable. He couldn’t tell why, but he had this nagging feeling that there was something suspicious about it.

“Don’t tell me… that your father’s special education method included long stays inside the Arena?”

Elaru’s expression suddenly froze. She wanted to say something a few times but swallowed it down. Finally, she settled for. “Uh…actually, yeah. There is no better place to learn fighting than the Arena. I know the Ashar and Malia Arenas like the back of my hand.”

“Eh? You’ve been to Malia too?” Kiel suddenly completely forgot about the ticket he needed to buy.

Elaru looked up at Kiel in surprise. His usually indifferent and calm gaze currently contained…excitement?

“Too? Have you actually been to Malia?”

Kiel’s eyebrow furrowed when he saw Elaru’s obvious surprise. “It’s not like I’ve never been outside Beyd…in fact, I go to Malia once a year. My father feels an obligation to buy me a birthday gift each year, but still doesn’t know anything about what I like. So each year, he buys me the most expensive Arena ticket he can find. He figured that everyone loves warlock battles so I should be like every other male and like it too. Then he takes me to Malia and pretends to be a good father for one day.”

Elaru’s eyes widened, and she gazed at Kiel in shock. Then she slowly raised her hand and placed it on Kiel’s forehead. “You…actually…shared something personal with me? Kiel, are you feeling well?”

Kiel’s eyebrow started twitching, and he growled out in between gritted teeth. “Keep doing that, and it will be the last time I share anything personal with you.”

As if she was burned with fire, Elaru removed her hand from his forehead and put her hands up in surrender. “No! No. Apologies. Please continue.”

Kiel glared at her. “I’m done sharing.”

Elaru pouted, her long ears dropping down sadly. Then she looked up at Kiel from under her long eyelashes and asked hopefully. “Don’t be mad at me? How about I throw in something personal about me in return?”

Kiel refrained from commenting and just gazed at her coldly.

“I actually really wanna get to know you better. You are my mate, after all. We are buddies for life; we are supposed to be able to trust each other and help each other.” She spoke softly in such a pitiful tone that Kiel was struggling to stay mad. In the end, he just rubbed his temples and sighed in resignation.

“Fine. My favorite warlocks are Trickster and Double. Yours?”

When his voice fell, Elaru’s eyes lit up and her mouth involuntarily morphed into a brilliant smile. “Is that so?” Her grin slowly morphed into a smirk. “You’ve got great taste!”

Kiel’s eyes narrowed, and he looked at her suspiciously. “Why do I get the feeling you are teasing me?”

Elaru shrugged. “I meant what I said. In fact, they are my favorites too!”

Before Kiel could further ponder over her somewhat strange behavior, Elaru changed the subject. “Since you like them, I assume you saw their match live?”

“Yeah.” Kiel nodded. “More than one actually.”

Elaru’s smile got so bright Kiel couldn’t bear to watch it any longer and averted his gaze towards the workers selling tickets. “Two daily tickets to the 23rd floor.”

“One ticket, actually.” Elaru interrupted. Kiel looked back at her. “I’ve got an all-floor long term pass.”

Of course you do…

I am the noble here so why is it that you are the rich one instead?

Kiel shook his head, grumbling internally, and bought his ticket. He then turned towards the large spiral staircase that went along the edges of the pit to the bottom. Instead of taking the stairs, he decided to jump down into the pit instead. Of course, there was a contraption called “the elevator” but that was for elibu. And Kiel had never ridden one before so it was safer to use the old-fashioned way and just jump into the pit.

Elaru followed him happily, even trying to talk to him on the way down. She seemed awfully happy to converse about their mutual favorite warlocks. “Which one of their matches was it that converted you into their fan? Trickster’s and Double’s, I mean?”

Kiel didn’t even need to think to recall that one match. The first match of the two warlocks he had seen.

 

(8 years ago)

It was a clear and sunny day in the Arena city. Unfortunately, Kiel mood wasn’t nearly as clean and sunny as the weather. On the one hand, being brought to Malia was certainly more enjoyable than staying at Beyd. On the other hand, watching warlocks battle, while truly entertaining, only served as a reminder that he would never be able to be anything more than just a spectator.

It served to remind him that he was weak. And still, even after 4 years of working hard to become an incredible mage, he was still weak. Sometimes he felt that all that effort was in vain. That perhaps, 4 years ago, he had made the wrong decision.

Alas, his father had no idea that bringing him to the Arena every year might not have been a good birthday present. But if he complained about it, his father would surely ask him what he would prefer as a present. And then he wouldn’t be able to respond.

For the things he wanted, weren’t things that he was willing to tell to his father. If he told him the truth, his father would have that distant and miserable look in his eyes. And then the mood of the entire trip would plummet down even further to the point where he would wish that he wasn’t even on the trip. To the point that Beyd would look pleasant.

So, he stayed silent and followed behind his father like an obedient little noble boy, as they made their way into the VIP seats of the Arena.

Only when he heard his father greet someone did he finally show some interest and looked up.

Coming up in the next episode:

That one look at the man made Kiel’s hair stand on end.

Was he a non-mage like me? But why would my father treat a non-mage with so much respect?

“This is my great great great…” The man motioned towards a boy sitting next to him “Uh…I am not actually sure how many generations it has been… great grandson.”

It was as if the two of them were fire and ice, exact opposites. And like fire and ice didn’t quite get along, Kiel instantly felt like the two of them wouldn’t get along either.

Even though the two had barely spoken to each other, even though they only met today, even though they might be too different to get along, at that time, none of it mattered. For their feelings were in complete sync. For their feelings were the same.

Fate had a strange way of playing with people. And a single twist of fate could turn best friends into irreconcilable enemies.

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