Episode 81 – Conclusion of the Mana Exam
The illumination crystals on the ceiling started flickering in and out and swaying dangerously left and right.
Zerel’s lunar-like eyes shined brightly like two huge ingots of gold. Excitement, curiosity, mirth, expectation, and interest intertwined together, making his aura wiggle around like a litter of mischievous, newborn vulpies.
Deora’s eyes widened, a tinge of panic seeping out through his aura. If his attention wasn’t already preoccupied, Zerel’s strange aura would have made his skin crawl.
Elaru’s black and red striped scarf started flying around like wriggling snakes.
The dark sky seemed to get darker. And then suddenly, a bright flash of lightning illuminated the whole room.
As if the crystals inside the black pot were the source of lightning, they shined with the same golden luster as the lighting. The hum of the crystallizer was getting louder and louder, eventually becoming a high-pitched buzzing.
A tree of crystals spread out from the pot with numerous crystals dangling around like leaves. The roots of the tree looked as if they were pushing against the pot, trying to break out. As if, at any moment the pot would crack open.
The earth shook dangerously, making the shelves inside the room creak and the items clatter.
Deora’s heart almost leaped out of his chest in alarm. He let out a miserable screech: “STOP!!!” however, it was suppressed by the rumbling of thunder.
Elaru either didn’t hear him or pretended that she didn’t. The torrent of mana passing through her skin seemed to distort the air around her, giving her a misty, ethereal glow.
The crystal tree reflected in Elaru’s eyes, the golden color mixing with her teal magically as if it was always meant to be there. Small beads of sweat dripped down the side of her head, glittering as if they were made of transparent crystal.
Deora got up from his seat intending to stop the exam. This custom crystallizer was the most expensive exam device they had. Under no circumstance should he allow it to be damaged!
Deora jumped over the table and Accelerated towards the crystallizer, however, just as he activated the spell, Zerel’s pale hands wrapped around his ankle. “Little Dei, we aren’t allowed to interfere with the exam.”
Zerel’s pull made Deora lose his balance and stumble towards the exact black pot he had been trying to save. “Ah! Little Dei! Careful!” Zerel exclaimed. It was hard to tell whether his worry and surprise was genuine or sarcastic.
Horror overtook Deora’s face as he fell face first towards the crystallizer.
He recast the Acceleration in attempts to forcefully change his direction of movement, missing the pot by a hair’s width.
As Deora stabilized himself, cold sweat dripped down his face in streams. He took raspy breaths and glared at Elaru. “Stop… Right… Now!”
This time, Elaru seemed to take notice of his efforts and her gaze converged on Deora. She exhaled a hot breath that turned into white mist.
The whirlpool of mana around her slowly slowed down and seemed to dissipate.
Not even half of the sand inside the hourglass had flowed down the bottleneck. The exam wasn’t supposed to be over just yet.
Deora let out several deep breaths to calm down. His face was as red as his hair. He glared hatefully at Elaru as if she had massacred his whole family.
“Get out!” He squeezed out through gritted teeth and pointed to the exit of the classroom.
Elaru blinked several times in confusion, and then her face fell, looking at Zerel with a wronged look. Her long ears drooped down pitifully.
Zerel beamed brightly at her, stars glittering in his eyes. Elaru expected him to say something, but he just looked at her with a gaze that caused her to involuntarily shiver. It was a gaze a lupax used to look at a fat and juicy meep.
The size of the crystal should be enough for me to score full points. I should just go… Elaru concluded. …before Firecracker explodes.
Speaking of which, why did he hate her so much? She never did anything to provoke his ire!
Elaru clicked her tongue before walking out of the room with slumped shoulders.
Deora felt no pity for her. Instead, he snorted and bowed down to pull the crystal inside the crystallizer out. Usually, examiners would weigh the crystal to determine the exam score in the category of Mana Pool Size and Mana Regeneration. But actually, Deora wanted to remove the crystal so that the crystallizer can be used again by the next examiner.
The crystal tree inside the pot looked like a fragile art piece. Deora grabbed it lightly, careful not to break it.
Unfortunately, the fragile looking crystal tree that should have been feather light, turned out to be heavier than if it was made out of lead.
Unprepared for the large weight, Deora didn’t manage to pick it up. His pull only made both himself and the tree lose balance.
He stumbled towards the crystallizer, unceremoniously stubbing his toe on the leg of the table.
Deora didn’t even have the time to scream and curse, when the legs of the table, which had already been weakened by Elaru’s mana whirlpool, finally snapped under the weight of Deora’s falling body and the heavy crystal tree.
The table toppled over to the floor, followed by the crystallizer in the shape of a round pot that beautifully rolled like a barrel.
The pot crashed heavily on the ground causing the entire room to shake.
A loud fracturing sound spread through the room.
Sand slipped through the cracks in the now shattered hourglass, creating small sand dunes on the ground. The sand even entered inside Deora’s shoes.
The soft tapping sound of rain reverberated like hammers inside Deora’s head.
A brief silence settled inside the room before it was broken by a mournful howl.
Elaru was debating whether she should wait in front of the room, thinking that perhaps the two examiners wanted to test her again later, when the loud crash entered her ears. The painful bellow that followed dispelled any indecisiveness she had. Clearly, it would be better for her to get lost as soon as possible.
Therefore, with haste, she Accelerated away towards the main hall where Kiel had been waiting for her.
Deora continued to scream in anguish for a long while after Elaru’s retreat, taking his pain out on the crystal tree that shattered like glass, sprinkling shards all over the carpet.
“Eh??” Zerel complained. “Little Dei, aren’t you going to weigh the crystal?”
“&%$#! Do you want the scale to break too?!?”
Dusk Rose slowly walked towards the White Quarters, with a sullen face. His clothes stuck to his slim build like a second skin, making him look like a drowned lunar. His shoes made squishy, wet noises with every step. Dusk Rose couldn’t help but flinch each time he heard the sound.
His long thin braid that would usually jump around animatedly, now laid lifelessly, plastered against his back.
During his attempts at removing the platinum needles out of his neck, he had dispelled Façade and returned to his true appearance.
His previously brown eyes turned as green as grass. His previously dark brown hair that fell around his face messily started darkening and twisting around. The strands around his head shortened while the hair on his back lengthened until it morphed into a braid that reached his waist.
On first glance, his hair looked black, but under the light, it let out a vibrant green shine that created a beautiful harmony with the green of his eyes.
His previously unremarkable and goofy face morphed into a delicate looking youth. His face wasn’t eye-catching and would easily be disregarded by passersby. However, if one bothered to take a closer look, one would realize that his face was extremely easy on the eyes and could be considered as quite pretty.
His seemingly ordinary clothes writhed around like snakes, rearranging themselves into a black leather outfit that gave Dusk Rose a dangerous look.
After dispelling Façade, it took some additional effort for Dusk Rose to morph his braid around the first needle, tightening it like a rope. After which, he finally succeeded in pulling out the blasted needle.
Regrettably, while he was in the process of pulling it out, the anticipated storm finally erupted. The lightning split the sky in half, and a waterfall of rain followed, drenching him in water from head to toe in only a few seconds. The branches of the tree he was lying under were large and wide apart, providing him almost no shelter from the rain.
On the upside, at least he managed to free himself in time for his own exams.
As he walked towards his exam classroom, his face was frowning the entire time. After his exams, he needed to return to his handler and report the results of his mission.
But… how could he explain getting robbed and “tied up” for hours under the rain?? That was simply too embarrassing to be put into words!
He couldn’t lie about what happened, that would be considered as a false report which is an ultimate taboo in the world of spies and assassins. However, he could word the happenings carefully and turn it into a less embarrassing version of what transpired. Something that wouldn’t make all his cousins laugh their arses off for the next ten years.
Unfortunately, no matter how he tried thinking about it, his encounter with Elaru Wayvin was simply too embarrassing. Perhaps he should glorify her achievements to make his loss look like something natural? But wouldn’t that do Elaru Wayvin a favor by increasing her reputation?
Dusk Rose ground his teeth. He didn’t want to increase her reputation! He wanted payback!
He sighed and reached into his pocket to get a handkerchief to wipe his nose that started dripping watery snot. Unfortunately, even his handkerchief was wet.
Dusk Rose stared at his pretty handkerchief embroidered with flowery patterns sadly. His nose twitched, and he couldn’t help but sneeze. Bloody tarnation! Don’t tell me I caught a cold?
Is this divine retribution or just plain and simple irony?
When the earthquake finally subsided, the people inside the main hall started calming down. Kiel continued his act of a flawless prince by going around helping people up from under the tables, and showing fake concern for their wellbeing, while internally, he was cursing his bad luck.
Once he stepped up it was hard to step down, he had to act like a prince charming until the end.
Thus, when he finally noticed Elaru coming down to the main hall, he was like a drowning man who had been thrown a lifeline. Quickly, he changed his direction of movement, going towards her.
He placed his hand on her upper arm comfortingly and looked at her with deep concern. “Are you alright?”
His sweet tone and false concern gave Elaru goosebumps. “I was fine until you asked about it.”
Kiel tilted his head to the side and looked at her innocently. “Whatever do you mean?”
Elaru’s eyebrow twitched, but in the end, she decided to play along. She grabbed his arm affectionately. “You made me remember the appointment we have downtown. We should hurry. Otherwise, we’ll be late.”
If her statement was false, Kiel wouldn’t have been surprised. They were acting out a play that would give them an excuse to leave the main hall.
However, the bond told him that half of the statement was actually true. “You have some kind of an appointment? Is it to pick up the ring?”
“Yes.” Elaru smiled and led Kiel out of the main hall while he looked around at the crowd apologetically and nodded to the people present, politely excusing himself.