Episode 105 – Alive
When Kiel’s vision lit up again he was lying on his side, his entire body aching in utter agony. The flames had turned his stylish black clothes into scraps. His chest and arms were completely bare, and even his pants were in tatters.
His head pulsed with a migraine.
A high-pitched tone buzzed in his ears.
He couldn’t hear the crackling of the fire, he couldn’t even hear his own heart beat.
The sounds seemed far away, distant, quiet. It was as if someone covered his head with a pillow, muffling all sound.
His long eyelashes fluttered, trying to clear his blurry vision.
The entire world was spinning, making him sick to his stomach.
Time seemed to trickle down slowly, like sand in an hourglass.
Trickle, trickle; his blood dripped down sluggishly, rolling down his chin onto the floor.
It slid down so slowly that it looked as if it was floating instead of falling.
The dust was floating too; it covered up the sunlight, turning his entire world dark.
All his senses were compromised, unclear, failing.
How am I… still alive?—was the first coherent thought to enter his mind.
Brief flashes of what happened made his migraine intensify. His earth shield reinforced by a protection spell had helped block the majority of the impact created by the explosion. Otherwise, he would have died on the spot.
It had sent him flying like a kite with its string cut, yet because his body was arched forwards in a running pose, his body ended up curling up and rolling. Like a skipping stone, he bounced off the ground multiple times, each hit slowly dissipating the force.
Ironically, his loss of consciousness made his muscles relax which helped absorb the impact.
Therefore, even though his organs and muscles were bruised, causing him considerable pain, he suffered no serious internal injury.
Yet, what baffled Kiel wasn’t that he survived the physical impact – it was because he survived the heat released by the blast. His temperature isolation had dissipated shortly after he lost consciousness, leaving him exposed to the temperatures high enough to melt steel. So how was he still alive?!
Kiel’s heart thumped painfully inside his chest, the adrenaline numbing his sense of pain. He stretched his mind out to cover the entire arena. Out of all his senses, only his mana sense was working properly.
The sweep of his mind helped his heart calm down for he wasn’t in immediate danger. There were no fireballs or firewalls chasing him. In fact, Deora was still recovering from the explosion himself and wasn’t even on his feet.
Seeing as Rhur and Nelaira were also looking disoriented and ruffled, Kiel figured that his loss of consciousness was brief.
Unfortunately, that brought him little comfort.
Kiel groaned, his attempt of movement bringing him nothing but agony. The husky sound of his voice spread like a beacon inside a silent world. It sent out ripples that stirred up his senses one by one.
A burnt smell entered his nostrils, followed by the soft crackling of fire that sounded so near, as if it was flickering right inside his ears.
Only now did Kiel realize that his hair was still on fire.
He tried casting cooling magic on his entire body, including his hair, yet all his mana was in turmoil. Just like his collapsing mental state, it was darting around chaotically, refusing to heed his commands.
He quickly focused on his casting, disregarding everything else. Temporarily he put the pain to the back of his mind, exercising his will over every particle of energy in his vicinity.
Until his very last breath, he would remain the sovereign of this mana–his mana. This was his world. A world where his will was law.
The wild particles of mana suddenly jolted, stopping their rampage. Like scared little piwi, they struggled left and right but they could not break free of their shackles. Slowly, but orderly, they got into line, trickling towards Kiel’s body and tracing a web inside of him.
Finally, a pulse of magic power spread through his body, soothing his scorched flesh and putting out the remaining flames.
Once again, Kiel weaved a dense net of mana, covering his flesh, muscles, bones and organs. And then in the center of the net he drew up a Morph spell.
Besides the ability to alter reality, spells had an extra function the mages could take advantage of – an ability to extend the senses of the mage. The spell became the extension of the mage, an extra limb with its own senses.
An Accelerate spell gave mage the ability to feel the velocity of the target so as to control it better; a Temperature spell made the mage very sensitive to the temperature of the target, and similarly, the Morph spell allowed the mage to feel the shape of the target, which was one of the reasons why using it to shapeshift was much easier than if one tried to achieve the same result with an Acceleration spell.
The mage’s ability to “feel” through their spells was directly proportional to the density of their spell roots and their spell control. And Kiel’s dense net of mana coupled with his fine spell control allowed him to directly feel all the little parts of his broken body through the Morph spell.
His whole body including his inner organs was bruised, and three of his ribs were broken. Yet, miraculously, his skin wasn’t badly burnt at all. It was red and painful, steam was even rolling off it. But, these burns… were just first degree burns!
How is this possible?! Kiel’s mind reeled, but he had no time to ponder over the matter. He needed to fix himself up. He had no intention to give up on this exam.
Kiel gritted his teeth and accelerated his broken ribs back into place, then he used the Morph spell to weld them back together. He was no healer, and he didn’t know if Morphing broken bones like this would cause future troubles, but this body was just a Replica. He didn’t need to worry about future consequences.
If he wanted to continue this fight, he couldn’t have his ribs threatening to poke holes inside his organs.
After his ribs were put back into place, he found it easier to breathe. He attempted to sit up but ended up almost biting off his own tongue from the pain.
Not only was his skin burnt but the muscles underneath were shredded into large bruises.
He gave up trying to get up and tried to calm his breathing.
I’m fine. I suffered no serious injuries.
In fact, I’m not even that burned. I’ve had way worse!
This is nothing!
The dust started clearing, occasional ray of sunlight traveled through, illuminating Kiel’s scrunched up face.
Kiel released his Morph spell and attempted to create a similarly intricate web of spell roots, this time deciding to cast a Velocity spell. He needed to be ready to escape at a moment’s notice. Since his body couldn’t move, he would need to completely rely on magic to move it.
However, before he could finish it, a faint sound of footsteps entered his ear. Slowly, they were approaching him, getting louder and louder with each step.
Every step caused his heart to feel like someone was squeezing it.
Through the dust Kiel could see a head of crimson hair.
As he saw Deora, Deora saw him too, and he gaped. “Why the frakk aren’t you burned to a crisp?!”
Kiel’s eyes narrowed into a glare, his lips pressed tightly together, refusing to respond. His hands felt around, searching for Elaru’s egg. He needed to buy some time to recover.
His Velocity spell was incomplete, if he finished it now, only half of his body would be covered by it. If he accelerated in such a condition, with a single mistake he could easily end up tearing his own limbs off.
The egg…! It’s gone!
Kiel’s heart skipped a beat. He concentrated on his mana sense and quickly pinpointed the location of the egg. It had been blasted out of his hand during the explosion and ended up quite a distance away from him.
Hastily, he attempted to cast an Acceleration spell on the egg, hoping that he could make it fly towards him in time. Unfortunately, his Acceleration spell seemed to interfere with the spell the egg was enchanted with, making it shatter before it could form.
Kiel’s pupils shrunk, staring at the red ball of flames coming his way.
The reflection of the fire inside his eyes covered up their original pale blue color.
The fireball appeared to fly extremely slowly, but it was upon him before he could even blink.
Kiel’s heart sunk down into the pit of his stomach.
He knew that he wouldn’t be able to dodge it in time.
He didn’t even have his sword at hand to try a last-ditch defense. It had also been blown away and was in an even more miserable state than him – half melted.
Is this the end?
Is this how I will die?
He could almost hear the voices of the examiners.
“He has reached his limit.”
“Is this all he amounts to?”
“A pity. He is nowhere near Rhur Rroda’s level of ability.”
Kiel closed his eyes. He hated those flames, he’d rather not look at them any longer.
Images of the past flashed in front of his eyes in a blur.
It was as if time flowed in reverse.
He remembered how he met Elaru, he recalled his time in Beyd, he remembered his first time in the Rroda mainhouse.
The stream of memories flew faster and faster until it became a blur.
Just as the fireball covered up his entire vision, the time seemed to freeze.
And the memories also came to a sudden stop.
(12 years ago)
“Why aren’t you coming out?”
A voice sweeter than chocolate and more musical than bells tickled the boy’s ears. He opened his bloodshot eyes only to meet two large lime green orbs. He froze, unblinkingly staring at the flawless small face in front of him. Am… I dreaming?
He blinked his eyes repeatedly. A girl so pretty can’t possibly be real…
However, no matter how he tried blinking the hazy image away, those two beautiful eyes still stared back at him. Those eyes were like two jewels, so bright that even the red flames couldn’t cover up their green luster.
“How long do you intend to sit there?”
Only when the girl’s soft lips parted did he realize that he wasn’t dreaming. There was a girl on the other side of the window!
The boy’s eyes widened, and he hurried to respond with a raspy voice. “The door is locked. I… I can’t break it open…”
The girl’s chest heaved up and down, her white dress stuck to her glistening skin like glue. “… the barrier… why aren’t you opening the barrier?”
The boy felt as if his heart got pierced through with a knife. Is that why no one is coming to help me? Because they can’t enter through the protective barrier surrounding the house?!
He clenched his fists so hard that he yelped in pain. “I… I don’t know how to use magic.”
The two large eyes stared at him unblinkingly for several seconds. Those two unfathomable eyes looked as if they held an entire universe inside of them. The diamond shaped pupil inside of them had shrunk down to the size of a needle.
The girl whispered softly. “You are…” Her gentle voice paused briefly before it struck Kiel’s heart like a hammer. “…weak.”