I should do some polls again.
Chapter 55: What Was That?
The locker room was dead silent. Carrying the weight and stomps of the crowd above me not a single vibration could be felt. Next to the double door that led to the battleground stood a Laurent official. He had been stealing glances from time to time, but so far looked uninterested. He was probably only slightly curious because I was one of the four that caused a small scene earlier.
Some time passed by as I readied my mind before he looked at me and spoke.
“It’s time. Your battleground will be B78 starting spot B. I’ll be leading you there in a moment. Once there you will go and stand on the position labeled B. After both you and your opponent reach your starting positions you will both have 25 seconds to draw your weapons and prepare. After 20 seconds there will be a 5-second countdown to battle. You are not allowed to move from the starting point or begin combat until you hear the horn singling the end of the countdown. You are free to forfeit or concede at any time. If you continue to attack after your opponent concedes or you are told to stop by me or another official you will be disqualified. Do you have any questions?”
“I have none.”
“Then follow me.”
The official opened the door and instantly a wave of cheers and roars reverberated in my chest. Over half a million spectators filled each and every seat at the Grand Colosseum. I was momentarily awed at the event this large the energy from the crowd was almost tangible.
I followed the official moving between the many battleground sections separated by thin walkways as we made our way to B78. Up close I took the chance to look through the invisible barriers boxing in each battleground stopping sword lights and various attacks from hitting us as we passed by.
With my first match, I would need to begin the storyline I want. I’ll start off with showing raw unbridled strength making them believe I’m a simple villager with no access to many techniques or training to make use of my power. Then, as I progress through my bracket’s round-robin it becomes difficult for me to win easily as I face opponents that are too slippery for me to easily contend with using pure strength. Leading up the ultimate goal of showing progress and, fake, untapped talent with a spear.
“We’re here.” The official stopped in front of a battleground.
“This barrier won’t stop you from passing through. Go and step onto your spot.” He pointed at the circular Laurent coat of arms etched on the stone floor.
I walked up and stopped above the carved circle embedded on the ground. Waiting across from me was another youth standing at the center of his half of the battleground like I was. He looked around 15 his face was youthful and his highlight yellow hair amplified his energetic expression.
Immediately floating above us a “25” appeared and began to countdown.
Both of us drew our weapons. The ring on his finger turned into a giant shining silvery metallic whip slowly wiggling like a charmed snake.
Like him, I brought out my spear quickly casting first snow onto it then readied an aggressive stance.
“You don’t look like you have the strength to face me, this is my win,” I said looking at the tip of my spear trying to force a look of a brute with absolute confidence in his strength.
“Cocky!” The yellow-haired youth scoffed as he also cast something bringing forth bright arcs of electricity to appear snaking all over his body and whip.
His weapon looked jolted alive the electricity making it move with more vigor.
I know its cocky, but I need it for the soundbite!
He glared at me while I calmly looked at him as the countdown disappeared with another 5 seconds appeared this time in bright red color.
I slammed the bottom of my spear’s shaft directly into the ground in front of me sending up rocks and stone high into the hair, as a bomb had gone off the resulting shock wave sent the yellow-haired youth slamming into the barrier behind him knocking him out.
The official standing on his side looked surprised.
“Match win Lumi Nous!” He quickly said after looking a bit tongue-tied.
“W-what was that? What happened over there? Accident?” I heard other participants passing by asking as they head to their match location.
It was also the sentiment I was getting from the eyes of the spectators.
Immediately after I received a message confirming my win I began to walk off the battleground. I said nothing as I departed. My raw strength was enough to speak for me so others could fill in with their own words, which I hoped they embellish, about what happened.
Whether people think my words earlier made me look arrogant or confident it didn’t matter so long as I got the attention.
The official that had been behind me was also a bit surprised but normalized himself once I left the barrier telling me to follow him back.
Leaving the studious gaze of the Laurent official I made it back to the grand ballroom.
“I didn’t expect this…”
“Didn’t expect what Lumi?”
“I didn’t expect most to care this little.” I sighed in disappointment.
I got a few looks but I had expected a bit more glances and double-takes.
Getting famous might be a little harder than I thought.
I could only sigh again at the result. My plan felt so certain in my heard earlier, the power I showed was extraordinary for my age. Nothing unseen or unheard of but based on my research I showed raw strength near the peak of anyone under the apostle stage. Something only seen once in a decade the last one being Chibin.
I’m supposed to be a diamond in the rough here!
“I have to agree your essence obtainment is something incredible. I have underestimated you.”
“I…thank you Aegris.” He was the last person I thought that would say this.
I would have thought he would have said something like “That level of strength? I could do that.”
And for thinking that I apologize in my heart. It is I who has underestimated your kind, gentle magnanimous heart.
“Still Lumi, I didn’t expect you to be so terrible at combat with people that you have to use brute force.”
I take everything I said earlier back. No, I take back 90% because there is some truth in that I am genuinely not good at combat with people, yet. Frium had always been severely holding back expressing less than or at the amateur skill.
However! Give me ten, no, five years and I’ll find myself to be acceptable in this area. With enough time there is nothing I cannot do.
With no real rebuttal other than spilling out my secrets I chose to leave it at that.
“Did Aegis leave for her match?”
“Yes, and she has returned.” A soft voice appeared from behind me.
From the sound of it, her match had gone just as simply as her brother’s.
“Aegis, you’re back.”
“I’m here aren’t I?” She said as she sat back down.
I followed her lead and sat down too. Because of the opening ceremony each of us would only have another 3 matches ahead of us today then 5 for the next 19 days.
“Aegis you have to watch Lumi’s battle turns out he’s a brute! Ahaha!” Aegris let out a deep chortling laugh as he passed his phone over to his sister already playing the projection.
Huh, that high.
The replay allowed me to see the altitude some of the rocks reached and how fast the match ended. Maybe because I experienced it first hand but it felt much longer in my head…
“A shame I wasn’t able to witness this live. Grand show isn’t the right term anymore. Maybe a flashy spectacular?” Aegis looked to be holding in laughter.
“That was my intention. I was aiming for some notoriety.”
“My respect for you has increased Nous. I had thought you the calculative combative never wasting a drop of mana.”
A drop of mana?
I couldn’t help but smile hearing her think that I hadn’t used any other than on First Snow. Any magic had to be dispelled before fighting of course or else someone might enter with external help.
“So has my respect. Spar me some time. I want to see how much strength means when faced with someone as quick as me.”
After thinking about it I came to think that Aegris didn’t mean in terms of speed, as my charge was faster, but probably meant in terms of agility and overall nimbleness.
Against hyres, with no real studied techniques, I felt I was faster but against someone who has a deep root in combat I couldn’t help but feel inferior, at the moment.
“We’ll have plenty of time at the academy.” As participants really did not have any time to waste their energy during the tournament. Their focus outside of battles should be on recovery and lustrating as each day would be taxing already.
In truth, I had plenty of energy to spare. The regimen I gave myself allowed me to realize that essence training or learning magic expanded mental acuity. I hadn’t realized it earlier because it was so gradual but with the incongruence of my not-so-newfound-anymore strength, I finally noticed it.
After some research, which was just asking Eystil, I learned it was a commonly known thing.
It seems silly to have been surprised. To be able to have superhuman strength and reflexes the mind, of course, would have to have developed in sync.
“That confidence doesn’t seem empty anymore.”
“I have to apologize for having my doubts Nous and at the risk of sounding as arrogant as you and my brother our skills are great.”
Just as I had thought and confirmed during the quest the two are a cut above and are starting to really realize it. They must have known they were gifted but now they are seeing by how much. It must be why the mood from earlier seemed to have relaxed. A sense of pressure had lifted off me too.
“It’s no problem I wouldn’t have believed myself either.”
I was happy knowing I could trust my gut feeling. I was getting inklings all around me now as I began to better understand the vague feeling, having started training it with laying eyes on Star King.
The two nodded their heads.
While wasting energy sparring was out of the question it didn’t mean our time for self-improvement was gone, each match was an even better way to temper ourselves.
We chatted to pass the time, which was mostly just discussing various matches, as we waited for ours.
It should my next match soon. Aegris and Aegis were walking towards me coming back after having had their matches start at similar times. This match seemed to be much more difficult, they hadn’t come back as quickly as they had previously.
Just as I was about to call out to them and ask how they felt I finally got the message.
[Please enter locker room H27 your match will begin soon.]
“You’re still here Lumi or did you come back already?” Aegis sat down and asked seeing it weird I was still here.
“I just received word a moment ago. I’ll be back.” I got up from my seat leaving before the Aegris had a chance to sit down.
The two waved me off and said nothing more. They didn’t look tired, yet, or injured but they weren’t at 100%, probably 80%, and fatigue would only get worse.
Making my way through the long coliseum halls lined with doors labeled for each locker room I made my way to mine quickly now that the sights weren’t so new.
Inside was the same as the last one but a different Laurent official. After repeating the same things and heading to the designated battleground I found myself staring at the countdown once again.
Staring at each other my opponent broke the silence with a long sigh, “Heavens is my karma this bad! Another spearman… how can I be this unlucky?”
He sighed again after I cast First Snow.
My second opponent was young also except he had a more masculine look with long black hair down to his waist wearing simple black leather gear all around. While it didn’t look expensive it didn’t look cheap either.
A more balanced stable approach? I wondered, most here would rather the best weapon they could afford over wearable equipment.
I said nothing in reply instead of studying his weapons more closely as they were the main reason for his sadness. He wielded a short sword in each hand, on his right was the bigger one with a blade a bit longer than his forearm and on his left was a one half the size but with a thicker blade and deep grooves. I had read about this weapon the grooves were coated with a high friction material inside to catch blades as breaking them was out of the question when facing similarly matched opponents.
With a broad stance and a defeated look, he stood ready as the final countdown reached zero.
“Fast!” I let out in praise.
Taking the initiative and launching himself at me.
Taking a defensive stance I waited for a short moment before my long spear blade met his quick enough to deflect both stabs with two resounding clinks.
I did it? I praised myself this time having successfully blocked two of his attacks while limiting myself entirely.
“You’re not charging at me?” He spoke out in surprise as we ran around the battleground exchanging blows.
I twisted around drawing a large circle with my spear to pick up speed.
He was forced to block with his two swords but forced my spear to get slowed down inside the grove of his shorter sword.
Seeing as my last match didn’t have the results I decided to try the opposite. Plus I’m taking this as a chance to temper myself with experience with people other than Frium and so far it was going well.
However, I was beginning to lose the upper hand.
So quick! Goddamn how? Dammit!
My frustrations began to pile up, while we looked evenly matched on the outside I was now seeing the extreme disparity in skill. He could feel me out faster than I could him! Understanding where my openings could be faster than I could do to him. I had to tap into my excess strength to meet his swords or to dodge cleanly.
Using the blow I jumped back he used the force to be thrown back I followed after him continuing a stream of jabs and slashes with my spear. Occupied on trying to regain my flow of battle as the grooves continued to throw me off my pace.
I had known this was the going to be the result, and maybe just maybe a little part of me had hoped I could brute force my way to fame because I didn’t want to face this reality so soon.
Another blow I was sure would land was quickly deflected forcing me to use my strength to evade the smaller sword stabbing towards me.
Luckily I was blessed with a rather different spear art, First Snow was beginning to show its effects. Although I got no direct hits on him the frost had passed onto him slowly from his swords making his arms move considerably slower.
Running alongside the limits of our battleground I chased after the dual-wielding short swordsman exchanging blows when he would turn around to buy more time.
But it was no use the frost was on his legs, he was too slow now as I quickly would catch up when he would jump away after exchanging attacks.
Running in a giant zig-zag to make him unsure where my spear would be coming from I appeared before him in a blink. His face looked shocked as he barely realized the layer of insidious frost.
Looking dejected he could do nothing as the blunt bottom end of my spear hit his open stomach throwing him back.
“I-I…c-concede,” He said clutching his belly.
Hearing his concession I dispelled First Snow causing the frost to disappear saving him from wet clothes.
Seeing the match was over he sighed again.
“What an interesting spear style. Maybe my luck is turning around.”
He looked at me surprisingly happy.
Although he ultimately lost the last spearman probably left him no chance to showcase his skills as our match had.
“My name is Ren Lingxin an Abyss Moon practitioner of the True Moon Sect and your name young practitioner?” He cupped his hands at me with an amicable smile.
“I am Lumi Nous, I can be called one of Azer’s Dragoons.”
“Dragoon Lumi, I thank you for your kindness this match.” He smiled and gave a bow.
What an interesting guy.
I returned the bow and turned around to leave the battleground.
“So are you brute or aren’t you?”
Aegris scanned over me moving his eyes up and down trying to figure out where the sudden skill came.
At least this confirms I can fake it perfectly.
“Who knows?” I shrugged my shoulders as I sat down.
“Tch.” Seeing he wouldn’t find out from me he turned back around.
“I too am interested. Which one is the real combat style for Nous? A brute or a skilled spear master? Just based on our quest together I want to say the former is the correct one.”
The former? I was interested in how she came to that as that was ‘real’ one at the moment.
Does it come from my experience as a bowman mixing into my individual style?
Regardless of how closely I follow Azer’s techniques, every practitioner would develop their own unique use of it. Shown in both minute differences or in large changes. Of course, perfecting the original form to be learned first.
“Instead of wondering about me, you should be thinking about the other participants. Did I miss any good matches while I was gone?”
“You were gone for quite a while, Star King went again.”
Aegris started a replay in front of me.
“He had to move this time?” I looked more closely at his opponent this time was an assassin that had disappeared from sight at the start before reappearing stabbing out from behind Star King.
“He’s not slow at all, look at how fast he notices and reacts to dodge.” Aegris pointed out.
Almost instantly after the assassin reappearance Star King noticed the attack and moved out of the way.
After losing the initiative the match ended quickly with an almost unceasing barrage of light. Most would have lost mere seconds after the countdown facing that assassin unable to react quick enough.
“That mage isn’t a simple guy I had expected an instant barrier, not this.” Aegis said with a tranquil voice as if underestimating him was to already expected.
Seeing them be unbiased appraising Star King after the argument earlier today made me inwardly happy. But after getting to know them better without the pressure of being outside close to danger it seemed normal for these two to be this detailed.
The days quickly and busily passed, the crowds became larger to match the clout more levels to the coliseum were added one night to increase the seating, adding over a quarter million new seats.
This was the largest ever, new stars were appearing left and right. Everyone seemed to have their eyes on the participants. Laurent Academy or not everyone wanted the gems here.