Episode 99 – First Blood
The participant next to Zor hesitated briefly, looking at the hourglass. He then gritted his teeth and made his move. Seeing how unguarded Zor Arite seemed, he decided to make him his first target.
The man unsheathed his sword and Accelerated towards Zor. In a blink of an eye, he appeared behind Zor and swung down his sword in an arc, aiming to chop off Zor’s head in a single move.
No one saw Zor act, however, in the next moment, the attacker froze in the middle of his move, his sword never finishing its slice.
Several seconds of silence passed with neither Zor nor his attacker moving. And then, the body of Zor’s attacker finally moved.
The man slowly fell on his back like a lifeless sack of potatoes.
Only when his body hit the floor did his head separate from his neck, slowly rolling off, leaving a trail of blood in its wake.
No one saw or felt Zor move. No one knew when nor how the attacker was decapitated.
From the beginning to the end, Zor seemed like an emperor who didn’t deem it worthy for him to deal with a speck of dust that was his attacker.
The serenity with which he remained leisurely sitting, even after the gruesome sight, made goosebumps crawl over everyone’s skin. At that moment, all participants decided they would definitely not be the next one to provoke Zor Arite.
Kiel too felt his hair stand on end. He remembered what Elaru had told him yesterday when he asked about her thoughts on Zor. Elaru had made a rather strange facial expression before speaking: “Uh… if you meet him in the exam… consider yourself unlucky… even if it was me with my Aethernea… I’d probably be unable to take him down in 30 minutes…”
“But what would you do if you were forced to fight with him?” was what he had asked next.
“I’d just avoid him. If you don’t provoke him, chances are he won’t bother dealing with you.”
Kiel had rolled his eyes in annoyance when she told him that. Only now did he realize that Elaru might have been right. If he wasn’t even able to see what happened while he was paying attention, then, how was he supposed to fight Zor? He’d just be a meep running happily towards the slaughter. Instead of committing “suicide” he might as well do his utmost to avoid clashing with him. At least he’d have a higher chance of living then.
Kiel was among the first to snap out of his shock and survey the current situation. The reactions of other participants to the beheading didn’t escape his keen eyesight. Rhur, Nelaira and Deora showed very little change of expression. However, the faces of the majority paled and broke out in cold sweat. There were even two people who looked both downright horrified. Their faces turned green, looking as if they would puke at any moment.
In a split second, Kiel’s mind considered his options and settled on an optimal course of action.
If he wanted to survive this Battle Royale, he would need to conserve his energy as much as possible which meant that he would need to fight as little as possible. For that to happen, he needed to create an air of might that would deter others from targeting him.
He either needed to show absolute dominance like Zor Arite, which, unfortunately, he couldn’t due to his lack of power, or he should project a calm poise shrouded in an air of mystery, making it difficult for others to gauge his skill level.
Unfortunately, even if he projected complete confidence, making others wary and deeming him as no pushover, eventually there would still be someone who would decide to fight against him.
So, in the end, he could either wait for someone to attack him first, or he could take the initiative to attack. Waiting for someone to attack him first had a low possibility of him avoiding the first round of battles, but it also had a possibility of his first opponent being strong.
On the other hand, attacking first would allow him the benefit of choosing his own opponent, and if he chose right, his overwhelming victory would discourage others from attacking him.
Since the possibility of no one attacking him was low, Kiel decided to become the second person to initiate an attack.
Kiel’s mana decisively surged outwards, covering his surroundings and spreading towards the enemy closest to him like a water wave. Kiel’s target had only just felt foreign mana enter his vicinity when that mana had already drilled into the ground around him, just outside of his Mage Armour, forming multiple Morph and Protection spells.
Simultaneously, Kiel Accelerated towards the person with such speed that he left a whirlwind of dirt in his wake. His goggles, which he had placed over his eyes in the 5 minutes of preparation time, shielded his eyes from the fierce wind blowing against his face. His scarf flapped behind him like a flag.
The target of Kiel’s attack, which was an argel with hair as black as his skin, tinged with several green strands, stumbled back half a step like a timid pechuh startled by a lunging lupax.
The mage attempted to Accelerate himself away from his current position. However, his spellcasting speed couldn’t compare to Kiel’s. Therefore, before he could fly away, several large earth spikes erupted from the ground around him, attempting to impale him.
Unlike Kiel, it seemed that he didn’t choose to cast sustained Acceleration spell on himself before entering the arena. It was probably because he hoped to save mana and didn’t think that he would be unable to cast it in time when he needed it.
His thinking wasn’t wrong. Not everyone had the luxury to waste as much mana as they wanted to, especially in a Battle Royale where they would most likely be forced to fight several battles in a row. Since Acceleration was the simplest spell to cast, he would have managed to complete it in the nick of time if he hadn’t been caught totally off guard by Kiel’s sudden attack.
The mage swung his scimitar horizontally with as much force as he could muster, hoping to cut down the spikes before they could impale him. He succeeded in slicing two of them in half, but by the time his scimitar reached the third, the force behind the blow was spent. It didn’t manage to cut through the spike and instead got stuck halfway.
Although Kiel’s spikes had a Protection spell cast on them making them more durable and difficult to break, the man’s scimitar was a magical artifact which was not only sharp and hard by default, but it was also reinforced by protection magic. The protective enchantment on the scimitar wasn’t something Kiel’s quickly formed Protection spell could hope to overpower, and thus Kiel’s earth spikes were cut apart with relative ease.
As soon as the man realized his weapon had gotten stuck, he wisely chose to temporarily abandon it in favor of his own safety. He shifted his body in an awkward pose, attempting to dodge the rest of the earth spikes. Unfortunately for him, Kiel’s multicasting was the cream of the crop, so the number of spikes attacking the mage simultaneously was impossible to dodge without sprouting wings.
One large spike ended up embedding itself in the thigh of the man while another one passed right through his shoulder, its bright red tip dripping blood on the other side.
Even though the man had cast Protection magic on himself that made it difficult for an attack to penetrate his skin, the Protection magic cast on the spikes themselves by Kiel was of a higher grade due to Kiel’s flawless mana weaving. When the two Protection spells collided, the mutual interference resulted in the effect of the weaker spell getting overwritten by the stronger spell. Thus, the previously hard skin of the man reverted back to soft flesh.
In the split second that the spikes reached the man, he finally managed to complete his cast of Acceleration, however, surrounded by spikes from all sides and even impaled by them, he had no room to maneuver in. He gritted his teeth and used Acceleration on his scimitar to dislodge it from the spike it was stuck in, sending it slicing down towards the spikes that managed to impale the man, in order to free him from his current predicament.
Just as he managed to slice the two spikes apart, Kiel appeared in front of him, swinging his sword down with enough force to cleave the man into two.
The only thing that the man managed to do before Kiel’s sword reached him was to put up his scimitar in a defensive posture in front of his chest.
When the two weapons collided, a deafening boom erupted outwards along with a whirlwind of mana. The force of the impact caused the man’s feet to sink into the earth, creating large spider web cracks in the ground around him. Both of the man’s hands with which he wielded his weapon turned numb from the force, and even Kiel’s own hand fared no better.
The wind and dust raised by the impact concealed the sharp movement of a small translucent glass dagger, which stealthily launched itself in a curve towards the back of Kiel’s neck. The small, hard to detect Acceleration spell that had been cast on it had been concealed by the eruption of the man’s mana.
Kiel didn’t seem to realize the severity of the danger lurking behind him at all. He didn’t move to dodge, his eyes locked firmly onto the man in front of him.
Suddenly, the man’s eyes bulged out, and he coughed out a large mouthful of blood. Afraid that the blood would soil his clothes, Kiel retreated backward – right in the direction of the small dagger.
Unaware, his neck approached the sharp tip of the poisonous dagger, it was so close, almost touching the short hair at the back of his neck.
Just a small graze and everything would come to an end.
And then, just like that, the dagger that was about to pierce into Kiel’s neck wavered, straying from its trajectory, missing Kiel’s neck by an inch. Gradually, gravity overpowered it and it fell down lifelessly to the ground.
The man’s eyes didn’t follow the falling dagger. Instead, he looked down slowly towards his own chest.
A sharp spike was protruding through the left side of his chest, right where his heart ought to be. The man’s lips moved forming the word “how” but he never managed to voice it. The attempt only caused more blood to come spurting out of his mouth. His bloodshot eyes stared at Kiel hatefully before they slowly rolled back, and the man fell forwards face first into the dirt.
The man never expected for the spikes he had cut off previously to be the most lethal ones. Not only did they remain flying in the air instead of dropping to the ground, but they even shoot towards his chest with flawless precision.
At the moment that the man sliced off the tips of the first two spikes, Kiel had already started casting an Acceleration spell on the discarded tips. However, the man was too distracted by the spikes he hadn’t cut yet and the danger of the approaching Kiel, to notice such a slight change of mana flow.
And even if he had managed to detect it, he wouldn’t have been able to dodge a pincer attack from two sides. If he chose to guard against the small flying spikes, then he would have failed to guard against Kiel’s slash which was perfectly coordinated with the attack of the spikes.
If the inconspicuous dagger that the man had sneakily shot towards Kiel had managed to reach Kiel in time, perhaps the outcome of this battle would have been different.