Chapter 59: Battle Cut Short
The medical official that led me away introduced himself as Fran Dowey. He was tall and young but held a strikingly professional demeanor, but with to my time with the Neysil siblings, my awe wasn’t too great as my sense of age was destroyed long ago.
“Take us to the north medical ward,” Fran asked an official with a purple half-cape.
The purple cape designated those with teleportation abilities.
“Understood.” Replied the official causing the ground under us to light up.
Immediately my vision blurred and went black but when my sight returned I was hit with slight dizziness that disappeared after a few blinks.
I praised Frium’s ability, I don’t remember feeling any type of discomfort when traveling with her including large groups.
Fran appeared to be taking much longer than me to recover as he stood stiff with eyes unfocused. I waited, watching for him to regain his wits. Once he did I froze up pretending to be recovering for a bit longer than him.
“What the, what a terrible teleporter. I’ve never had it feel this bad.” He commented surprised while rubbing his temple as he led me to the room labeled with the number 1.
With brisk steps, he walked ahead to get the door to slide before I arrived.
“I had my new assistant already prep the room he’ll guide you to lay down on the examination table.”
Walking towards him waiting for me to enter I took the chance to study his face as to ascertain more details and more importantly gauge his personality. While I can ignore the guards with nasty faces full of scorn I could not ignore a doctor with the potential to hurt me.
His face was handsome with a staid expression and gentle features. He had a soft hue of green eyes and after staring for a few moments I confirmed they seemed to hold no prejudice looking back at me.
Sensing nothing amiss I smiled and stepped in.
“Lumi!?” A young voice called out as I entered the door.
My head turned and saw a golden-haired boy.
“Alexander?” I asked the bright youth.
“It really is you! I just saw your fight! I knew you would be amazing! Closing the distance with that mage was so cool. The way you timed all of it I couldn’t believe it! I’ve seen all of your matches but that has to be the best one!” He ran to me and grabbed my hands in his excitement.
Shaking my brains as he jumped up and down I smiled bitterly hearing the praise.
“So what are you doing here? How did you know I would be here? Where’s Star King?”
He hadn’t contacted me or the siblings so I thought he was just as busy as us and we didn’t want to disturb him during his tournament. But it made me a little happy that he hadn’t forgotten about me. It was too bad his tournament wasn’t broadcasted in any way.
“Alexander please, he’s currently our patient handle him with more care…”
“Ack! Sorry!” Hearing I was a patient Alexander’s eyes narrowed letting go of my hands then gripped my arm to quickly drag me onto the bed.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you were injured. Quickly, tell me does anything hurt? What are your symptoms? Do you feel anything odd? Agh, I thought it would be Star King to come here since it takes the least time to teleport to this ward! You didn’t appear injured in the recording either!” He said as he scrambled around and turned on various machines pushing my head down onto the examination table then cupped my cheeks to face the ceiling.
“Please keep your eyes on the dot okay don’t move. I’ll be channeling my mana so please let me past your defenses or I won’t be able to observe you properly.”
Agreeing to his commands I allowed his prods of golden mana to enter me feeling the energizing warmness of a gentle morning sun press my skin.
After the door closed Fran made his way to the left of me and also began touching various machines speaking to Alexander as he did so.
“Maybe its too early for you but you’ll be able to tell from the video that Star King needed treatment from equipment not available here.”
“So it’s like that… does it have to do with tears to his astral body?” Alexander asked curiously while he brought his face close to mine and pried my eyes wide holding a rod that flashed a pulsating yellow light.
“Fran… was Lumi exposed to potential astral poisoning?”
“Possibly, but since my master gave him to me this is more of a double-check so apply what have I taught you this past month.”
Alexander simply listened and moved to grab another device.
“Good that you understand what must be done after you’ve done the preliminary checks.”
Without wasting another word he immediately turned back to me with a complicated expression.
W-whats with that face?
“Lumi this will burn. Please understand but I need to this to confirm that there are no residual shards of foreign grimoire matter inside of you.”
What a grave tone. Luckily I was confident not a single piece actually entered me.
“I don’t want you to be stunted so please forgive me no matter how much it hurts. Even the smallest of pieces can affect you especially when casting magic.”
In a serious tone, Alexander pulled on the handle of a floating machine above me. The device looked like an examination light I would have seen at a dentist but instead of a bright white it was a single thin line of red beaming out like a barcode scanner.
This doesn’t burn at all… even with me allowing it to pass through. What pain was he referring to?
“Please Lumi close your eyes and keep them closed.” Alexander and Fran put on a pair of orange-tinted sunglasses causing me to worry.
But I trusted Alexander so I obliged, albeit a little reluctantly.
Once I did the light had changed as a bright gold shined through my eyelids, increasing and increasing in intensity too many times over.
I’m gonna pass out…
I huffed silently enduring the torture.
I swear if I opened my eyes I would find a spray bottle filled with searing hot oil. I wanted to scream as I allowed his familiar, but much more intense, mana scan every inch of me. Still, I held it in not wanting to appear weak in front of this young kid that seemed to kinda look up to me. But that was probably already gone the moment I began trembling, wincing, and grunting while I sweated.
Desperately holding onto my pride was futile as tears had to be leaking out no matter how hard I tried to stop them.
My head was spinning, luckily, the dizziness served to lessen the pain as I clenched my teeth until not a single piece of skin wasn’t searing hot. There was no remorse in his use of the machine, like an angry barber he moved it without a care for my shudders or squirms.
Refusing to count the time, fearing doing so would make this torture seem longer, at some point the pain began to actually lessen as the golden light seemed to dim until my closed eyes saw only darkness.
My head slowly returned from orbit.
“I-its complete Lumi.”
Slowly I squinted afraid when I opened them again all that I would see hard cracked shriveled fried pork rinds instead of my skin.
Peaking at my hands, thankfully they looked fine then moved them to touch my face. I let out a sigh of relief feeling everything was alright. The only residual effect was a lingering heat to the touch as if I was on the verge of a sunburn.
After Alexander pressed some buttons I was hit by the most refreshing feeling as a frigid wind began to cool me down that coated me in some kind of misty liquid that dried quickly.
After a few breaths, I managed to gather myself. I looked up to the man who had brought upon me the nightmare of pain. Truthfully I wanted to grab the machine and use it on him, but after seeing his innocent expression all the anger I had felt up until then disappeared.
Alexander was sweating profusely and his breath was just as ragged. Using that machine must have taken a toll on him too.
Now I felt guilty as he smiled at me with his big bashful shining eyes telling me he knew it must have been painful.
After closing his eyes for a moment he turned away to look at a projection of various numbers and an outline of my body projected to the side of the table.
“I’ve confirmed no traces of any foreign materials. There were two reactions during the scan but after deeper observation I concluded they were false positives. I have good reason to believe all of Lumi’s wounds were superficial minimal treatment to the abrasions and injured physical body will be enough for patient Lumi Nous to recover completely.”
Fran scratched his chin with a satisfied expression nodding at Alexander’s answer as he swiped the air in front of him that had the same graphs and data.
“Good! No, great! Very thorough and precise. You’ve been practicing hard using mana beam emitters it’s no wonder why you placed so high for talent. Such a shame you didn’t have the experience before the start of the tournament, but better for me because you became my pupil haha.”
Fran then turned to me as he pulled the same machine Alexander had just used to his side.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me Lumi. I’ll need to scan you too to confirm his findings myself.”
My body stiffened. No… god no please have mercy.
“Just kidding! Gahaha was that too cruel? All the blood left your face! Alexander just how intensely did you scan him to make him so scared?”
I was wrong earlier about this man, he’s evil. Evil to the core possessed by an evil specter that followed me here might not be out of the question…
“Intense enough that I wouldn’t worry if I missed something under an astral constant…” Alexander looked at me shyly.
What does that mean?
“There’s nothing smaller than a…you must really care about him. Well, at least you made sure to check he could withstand such a scan. Anyone weaker would have maybe died haha.”
This is no time for laughter. Lawsuit? Malpractice? You allowed this torture to occur and did nothing? Is there no standard to care laws in this world? I ran through thoughts then glared back at Alexander.
In response he quickly avoided my eyes and looked straight down.
So it didn’t have to be that painful!? Alexander!? Is your naivety and innocent all an act so you can torture me all you want without worry I’ll fight back when you give me those eyes!?
But again as my anger rose Alexander looked back up apologetically. I was met with that radiant face. His golden hair and eyes carrying a gently divine and holy innocence. With a glance just like that the feelings that had welled up were quelled again.
“If you went that precise then you two must know each other? The output could have been twenty-fold less and the results would have been virtually the same.” Fran looked at us curiously as he appeared to be filling out some reports.
“Yes! Lumi saved my life and partied with me i-if it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing I did anything less.”
“Oh how fortunate for you Lumi to have made a connection with someone as bright as Alexander.”
“Fortunate for me?” I looked at Alexander studying him for a moment causing me to smile.
I knew his talents would be noticed, I didn’t party with him for long enough to know how great he was but its good knowing it was much more than I thought.
Without thinking I was already patting him on his head then began ruffling his hair aggressively.
Maybe I was a little angry after all.
“I’m finalizing my report, but you’re all clear after Alexander treats your physical injuries.”
“Do you happen to know how Star King is fairing?” I looked at Fran as I asked.
I’ve been wondering he was in a sorry state before being taken away and it was partially due to me.
“Umm Lumi this much is…”
“Ah, sorry.” I retracted my hand I had gotten lost in his soft lion’s mane for hair that I forgot to stop.
“N-no don’t worry please, I don’t mind,” Alexander said with red cheeks.
“I did message my mentor about your opponent. He really did a number on himself and I was curious about the implications too.”
“Is it bad? He looked well enough to try and jump at me.”
Fran took in a breath through his teeth.
“It’s pretty bad. The explosion isn’t a problem with properly built grimoires but he lacked the techniques built into it to encapsulate the toxic materials should the unexpected happen.”
Lacked them or did he never think they would fail, I wonder.
“The worst-case scenario happened also. He had his augmenting magic outside his body too meaning his defenses were extremely low or nonexistent depending on how much essence training he’s done.”
Interested I questioned out of my own curiosity as I sat up.
“Augmenting magic helps defend against pseudo physical and magical means?”
“You’re incorporating mana into your essence of self. Same reason as to why essence trainers become more durable against magic too, although with augmenting magic it’s temporary, if he had his augmenting magic on his body it would have saved him this pain.”
I understood the former part but the latter was new information to me. Star King really put his all into that last exchange only for it to completely and literally backfire.
While I thought about his words I received a notification, a message containing medical files containing the data collected during my examinations. After accepting them while happy to see the 15,000sc charge waived Fran turned to Alexander.
“I’m done on my end you can go ahead and finish his treatment now.”
“Leave it to me!” Alexander having fixed his hair began to take out various crystals and powders from the storage machine after having his identity scanned.
“Lumi please lay down for me again.”
I eyed him suspiciously but I was weak against his face so I obliged again.
“I-I promise this time it won’t hurt.”
I leaned back and I watched Alexander pop a crystal and a mix of powders into a spray chamber connected to a swiveling arm that was built to the side. After a moment it began to radiate a soft coolness.
Sensing no pain instead came a soothing quality from the energies radiating, I relaxed my body a little more.
Alexander’s eyes became focused and the room became silent leaving only a faint buzzing sound from where the crystal was placed while Fran stood back and watched his assistant do the work.
“Heart rate is fine, mana aura looks good, body is also fine.” Alexander mouthed quietly but slightly confused still he continued.
“I’m going to tighten the timings it will cause the beam to be more focused tell me if you feel any pain or discomfort but it shouldn’t…“ He said in a gentle voice as he made the blue light cover a smaller area become navy in color
The feeling of a ghostly comb passing through me continued. Its coolness permeated over and into my arms as Alexander moved the foggy light in a spraying motion. Its icy mist clung to my skin for a brief moment as if I brushed arms with a snow fairy.
Having no real injuries, most just being self-inflicted, this treatment didn’t do much other than make me feel drowsy from how calming it was.
“Where is he? What room number?”
From outside I heard Aegris’ voice.
“And how I would know how? It’s probably that one. It’s the only one with the glass panes that aren’t clear.” Answering to the question was Aegis’ voice.
“Are they allowed in?” I looked at Fran.
I wasn’t sure if were any kinds of procedures inside the medical ward.
“Sure, but it’s up to you if you want them to see you. You are after all possible opponents soon.” He replied.
“That’s fine let them in.”
Alexander was lost completely focused on the treatment and didn’t seem to have heard anything.
With my confirmation, the glass door slid open and the glass wall facing them turned clear. Waving them in the two siblings stepped inside. I felt Aegis and Aegris’ eyes pass over Alexander falling on him for a moment then moved on to Fran not wanting to disturb his concentration.
“Nous, how do you feel? Are you okay?” Aegis turned to me keeping her usual tone.
Hearing her sound normal I wanted to quickly answer, I even wanted to joke and pretend I was actually injured, but when I looked up at them meeting their gazes… I couldn’t. I couldn’t say anything actually. All I could do was stare back.
Why? Because both of their eyes were furrowed carrying heavy hints of anxiety awaiting my answer within them.
I was shocked and my silence even caused the relaxed and nonchalant Aegis to use her small mouth to frown and eyes to soften in a tender worry I didn’t think they could produce.
The two slowly inched forward and from the corner of my eye I could see their hands lifting from their sides to touch me in an attempt to comfort.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. There isn’t and won’t be anything wrong with me. Alexander made sure of that.” I quickly blurted wanting to stop them from touching me.
I know it came from a place of good but their sentiments made me extremely uncomfortable. Repulsed almost. This air wasn’t a feeling I was used to. Aegis was quick to notice how uncomfortable I was getting as she had retracted her own hands and grabbed her brothers’.
The two looked at Alexander who was putting to the side some equipment as well as the leftover materials that had gone into them.
“All his physical injuries have been treated with no signs of them being there anymore. His heart rate, oxygen levels, astral body, mana aura, and astral aura all look fine.”
“Lumi is no different than he was today morning,” Alexander said under their strong gaze with a confident tone.
I wouldn’t expect it from the shy kid but thinking about Aegis’ words. Everyone here has a weird sense of pride in their abilities. Not to say that no one on Earth doesn’t have a sense of pride in their skills but the type of pride and confidence is different from what I’ve seen on Earth. I don’t quite get it, however.
Seeing their expressions return to normal I too relaxed after Alexander took my final vitals.
“Lumi is the image of perfect health! Judging by how much greater essence was used to heal the tiny cuts if I had met you at Laurent as a cadet I would think you were a child from some rich family with one of Rook’s designer babies!”
Fran laughed but also looked curiously to my answer.
“If I was then I wouldn’t be in the tournament,” I replied.
“Ah, that’s true. Well, everything is completed and I have to report back as the main field medic while my own mentor is away treating Star King. You can stay here as long as you’d like but you should get back as you might be called.”
Fran then talked to the two siblings introducing himself before he left while I spoke to Alexander about how his tournament was.
He told me he did great at first but because he grew up in a rather closed off village he lacked a lot of real experience with using modern equipment so he performed extremely badly towards the latter end of the tournament. Luckily a few saw he had potential thus he was snapped up by Fran and his mentor and was immediately boot camped into learning how to use modern equipment and techniques.
“I don’t mean to disparage your skills, but if you just started learning how to use these things are you really okay with treating people already?”
Immediately I regretted asking as his eyes fell to the floor and the bright smile he had during our catch up disappeared.
“I-its only natural you wouldn’t trust some as unskilled as…”
Not wanting to hear what he was about to say I put my hand over his tiny mouth.
“I didn’t mean it like that Alexander.”
Unlike me, he is gifted which is why I didn’t want to hear him say anything more because it would piss me off. Actually, the fact that he was going to say it made me a little angry again so I used my hands to pull on his soft cheeks and shake him a little.
Seeing he was getting red again I let go.
“Don’t say things like that or you’ll offend others who aren’t as talented but try just as hard okay? You give yourself too little credit.”
He was silent.
Did I pinch them too hard? His face was red hot all over and not just where I had grabbed onto his ears looked like they were steaming.
I didn’t even pinch very hard…
“Sorry I shouldn’t touch you so brazenly… You just remind me of. Nevermind, my bad.”
“Ah no don’t worry about it at all!” He said forcefully.
Dammit, he’s pissed. He suddenly spoke again.
“I didn’t mean it like that, I like it. I meant uhh that I didn’t mind it. Err no I mean you don’t have to mind worrying about touching me!”
I let a breath in relief, he likes it?
Then that’s good his reddened face isn’t anger but shyness instead. I felt relieved knowing I don’t have to feel bad about treating him like a little brother.
“Lumi I didn’t take you for a bully what are you doing to poor Alexander?” Aegis walked over speaking in her dry joking tone and placed her hand on his head calming his flustered voice and hand movements.
What powerful elder sister techniques…
“I only pinched his little cheeks a little and he says it’s fine.”
“Hmm, well I’m glad to see your well enough to play around, its good to know you are well and truly fine.” Aegis nodded.
“You promised me a fight with everything you have Lumi. If you aren’t fine just say it now to get treated before we meet. I don’t want anything less than your all.”
Aegris looked at me up and down with a hard stare.
“I really am fine. So just expect the battle of a lifetime with my all so worry about your future self more.” I said while grinning.
Hearing my response Aegris cracked a nasty smile and laughed, but the smile betrayed his eyes as they contained relief that my condition was fine.
“Are you sure they checked your head properly? If you think our fight will be so simple then that explosion might have knocked some screws loose.”
“I-I did! I did. I double-checked that area too.” Alexander spoke up.
“Alexander I didn’t mean it like that. I was just—”
“I can check it again if you don’t believe me!”
Aegris tried to explain himself but was getting flustered dealing with Alexander.
Aegis sighed before speaking up.
“If you’re fine then we should go we’re already lucky we haven’t been called. Come let’s go Aegris, last thing you want is an accidental no-show forfeit.” Aegis said as she waved goodbye with her brother in tow.
Alexander waved bye happily to both as they left. I was done for the day and the next matches would go through into the night so I decided to spend my time with Alexander I was curious about the format for his tournament.
For such important abilities, I’m surprised by how different the attention is. Plus, I had plenty of time today as for our format there were 45 matches left, 4 had completed while I was being treated, with tomorrow being split into five groups for the final seeding.
The next day came around and it wasn’t a surprise that both Aegis and Aegris won their battles. They weren’t won handily either. But their hard fights showed staggering rates of growth and every time they traded blows with their opponents it looked like their win got closer.
Oddly, after the day ended and we were leaving some other participants came up to me and thanked me as we left the coliseum for kicking the mage, Star King, out of the final portion. They said they didn’t believe they had the ability or mana pool to both catch him and beat him. However, they made it clear that they still believed they could beat me.
The largest takeaway, or feeling rather, as I watched the Gidder siblings fight was guilt.
I catch myself thinking back to their gazes on me as they entered my room in the medical ward. I felt guilty about not giving them more during our quest.
“What are you thinking about?” My opponent across from me asked as we waited for the countdown to end.
“Just making some last-minute adjustments,” I said.
Speaking of that, Frium had praised the final moments of my battle but also said my timings were too tight and if I had better judged the situation I would have had the slack to have cleanly gotten away even from the freak accident. Again I didn’t believe her but after reviewing the footage she was able to make it clear the several moments where I could have been more efficient.
Other good news was she said my right bias has lessened.
“Last minute adjustments won’t be enough you know.” He smiled speaking in his slightly derisive and grating tone.
Just where does he get that confidence? I was slightly irritated but calmed myself thinking there was no need to get mad. I was stronger and faster than him. No matter what he did I wouldn’t lose today.
Who was this arrogant opponent?
The day I expected to come had finally come, a fight against one of the siblings. Out of the 50 winners from yesterday today makes the final 5 seedings for tomorrow and Aegris and I were in the same group of 10.
Steadying myself I prepared as the countdown had finally reached 20.
My spear let off an icy air, chilling the water from the large pond near me as I readied myself for combat. Aegris too shut his mouth locking his eyes onto me focused with expectation and excitement mixed within them. He had been waiting for this match and he had prepared for this match to the extreme. In his stance, in the way he gripped his two weapons, and in the aura surrounding him he aimed to beat me and only me.
Suddenly the guilt returned seeing him turn so serious.
The heavy feeling came from the promise I made to him to give this fight my all. But I couldn’t do that, it was impossible for me to give my all. My actual all is a heaven above him. So it leaves forced to put on a show for him, fake it and pretend this match is what he’s been hoping for. I didn’t want to let him down I want to give him a match that would satisfy him many times more than he is imagining.
As the countdown lowered to 10 the ferocious hot air coming from Aegris finally reached me. His heat increasing in intensity quickly melted the layer of frost that had formed on the flowers and pond surface near us in the serene zone.
At the sound, my feet kicked off as I charged forward closing the distance between us.
He defended easily as my spear’s thrust met his shield, skillfully, he deflected the energy to the side causing me to come closer within the range of his weapon. Being closer, he took the opportunity to thrust his sword.
Such a reaction was within my expectations as I was already maneuvering the bottom of my spear and smacked his blade away twisting my weapon and returning my spear’s blade back around to sweep at his legs.
Unfazed by the first exchange Aegris jumped back whilst throwing his buckler shooting it like falling star to stop me from immediately chasing after him. He landed 20 or so meters away. It was easy to swat the buckler away but I was surprised by how much force was contained within it.
It’s no wonder his opponents cried out every time that thing wacked them…
In the small lull, I stared at him for his reaction to see if I needed to adjust anything.
How was it Aegris? It’s exactly what you wanted isn’t it? I’ve set myself to give you the fight you’ve been preparing for. I had to win but I also didn’t want to insult Aegris or Aegis with a disappointing fight.
It was easy to have him think we’re both at our max with the absolute disparity between us it would be impossible for him know.
I secretly smiled while holding the same serious face Aegris had. He wasn’t suspecting anything at all.
The pause was short it only took a short few blinks for me to shoot off again smashing through the puddles of duckweed gunning away from the large pond.
The yellow shield was once again thrown at me but like the beams of Star King’s I flicked away the shield making sure to use its force to send further away to buy more time before its return.
Not letting go of the opportunity of the shieldless Aegris I sped up to him arriving with a flurry of thrusts. Throat, waist, chest, legs my jabs were quick and decisive keeping him on the backfoot. He was unable to close the length my spear gave me without the shield to bolster his defense.
I easily pressed forward as he defended with only his sword.
We traded attacks, my blows and his rung out in quick succession. I was sure the spectators without the use of any devices could only see the after sparks.
As I had set it, each of my attacks was perfectly countered and blocked as the cadence of the battle continued to get faster and rougher once his shield had returned. But I was surprised by him he understood my fighting style extremely well nailing every movement to match mine.
A vague premonition of him preparing something suddenly came, a fighter’s intuition from subtle changes coming from his movements. As such I tensed my legs and adjusted my posturing for a quick withdraw.
He must have noticed my change as I immediately felt a surge of mana moving from him.
I jumped back avoiding the close range shock of energy that exploded out. I looked to see Aegris finally enabling his augmenting magic his hair and eyes all combining with the red and yellow energies around him.
“What is this!?” He yelled out.
Distracted from the unexpected tone I barely made it in time to block his shield striking the dead center of the polearm of my spear passing through the raw force of the impact into my arms.
I blinked for a moment tasting the attack. It was filled with rage?
I was shocked and surprised by the output of strength Aegris was capable of, but also left wondering why there was so much anger infused into it.
Maybe its part of his augmenting magic’s uniqueness?
However, my somewhat polished ability wouldn’t let such a blow stun me as my spear was positioned back to begin to fight off the oncoming Aegris.
My spear met his sword with a heavy slash but with the increased quickness from his augmenting magic, his shield was already coming my way for a nice bash to my side.
I twisted back evading the shield by a small margin then continued the turn with my own slash coming from the right at Aegris’ open shoulder.
As the long dark blade of my spear neared his arm I realized he wouldn’t make it in time so I subtly changed the path but not the speed as he quickly bent his knees and brought his small shield back up.
Successfully, Aegris blocked it by a hair’s breadth with the edge of his gem shield.
“You! Is this it! Is this what you’ve promised me!?” Aegris glared at me then quickly followed up with another attack.
Is he getting frustrated? Did he really think he could win?
I felt the bitterness welling up again asking me to just let him win but I wouldn’t allow it to deter me.
Meeting his attack while creating more distance his sword no longer easily reached me again as I began to pressure him once again.
With the rapid trade of attacks the clinks of our weapons sung out faster and faster. Aegris matched my speed as my spear fluttered around like a hummingbird looking for an opening while his shield and sword dove in to block each movement like a hawk.
Making sure that I wouldn’t go too far as we elevated our fight I continued to study his refined and perfect movements making sure to keep him on his toes.
“ARGH!” Aegris screamed out as he suddenly attacked with his shield shooting it at me while he dashed far to the right trampling over the rows of tall bushes filled with delicate blue flowers whipping his sword destroying them.
His rush easily shook the plants and the heat around him whipped the flowers into the air. Aegris quickly disappeared from sight into a curtain of petals.
I was caught by surprise by his change in pace.
After deflecting his shield I darted my eyes turning my head every which way and quickly locked onto him running around behind to my left.
Shit, I shouldn’t be able to find him so quickly…
Feigning ignorance my eyes and head continued to scan over the slowly burning petals surrounding me becoming an entrapment of fire.
It was when he reached slightly off-center behind me that I felt him begin to move.
Aegris forcing his utmost yelled out as he rocketed to me.
Do I take the injury? I already more or less knew where the attack would be coming from but at similar strengths, I shouldn’t get out of this unscathed.
The curtain of fire disappeared in clouds of ash with Aegris streaking towards my back.
Fast! I was caught by his shocking speed scrambling to decide how I should receive this attack.
Fumbling, I twisted my self around and jumped back. Our weapons clashed and his momentum pushed me in the air shooting me backward in a massive arc landing me in a small waist-high maze of dark purple lilies.
Treating the blow as a full surprise I allowed myself to land tumbling smashing through and thorny flowers destroying the stone walkways in the crash.
Even before I could get up Aegris was still running at me ignoring the maze and running through the flowers dyed in his augmenting magic with his eyes completely bloodshot.
He looks even angrier? What the hell does he want from me to lose a limb?
As he ran he flicked his topaz sword covered in a bright red aura sending a gale of fire like a dragon’s breath. Rolling to dodge being roasted after getting up I groaned as I was met his glowing sword.
The flame completely razed the area behind me.
I felt an even more extreme heat coming from his sword and body licking my skin and face. I could smell my clothes burning as we exchanged blows running through the small maze destroying what was left of it. The gazebo, the dining table, and the statue fountain were all reduced to ash or dust in our wake.
Shit, I was getting frustrated First Snow was encroaching way too slowly because of his innate resistance…
While he had been slowed down a bit its was almost negligible.
Releasing puffs of steam from the cold coming off my weapon when mine met his I flicked my wrist twisting me spear above me then brought it down to throw forward in a series of four quick thrusts.
Aegris perfectly defended the first three but realizing I needed to increase the pace I had increased the speed of my last thrust his blade and my spear scraped against each other but the sharp point made it through injuring him with a frosty gash below his left rib before being deflected away from out of his torso.
Not minding the injury Aegris rapidly turned and used his sword to send my spear to the left then twisted his body to send his shield at me.
Having to deal with a quick set of attacks I rapidly retreated back and brought my spear into form to block his oncoming buckler.
Standing apart in the, now, destroyed maze of flowers I called out to my mana feeling it had penetrated under his skin and into his body. Unlike before I could distinctly feel his technique didn’t seem to be effective at stopping the growth of frost from inside. All that was left was to allow the ice to encroach on him for a bit longer and win.
I took my eyes off the wound and looked at Aegris face.
He was distraught? His eyes didn’t seem to be in pain but his expression told me he was suffering.
Suffering from indignation… but why? I’ve helped him show his ability I’ve even allowed him to even grow stronger.
“Even with this form, it isn’t enough for you…”
Enough for me? I’m at my wits’ end on how much further I should push you for this match because you’re too talented!
With my dirtied face from the burned flowers and injured look I put on from the heat of his blows I sent Aegris a focused glare.
“You… you look down on me this much. Were you laughing at me every time I talked about looking forward to this?”
“The indifference I feel when our weapons meet it tears me apart inside Lumi…” He said quietly his words trailing off.
Hearing that word I couldn’t help but repeat it. A ways away I looked at Agreis once more, properly this time. His face, his eyes, his aura I finally understood what I had mistaken earlier.
My mouth went dry and a nastiness arrived at the pit of my stomach. There was only one thought on my mind now.
Would he forgive me?
“Shut up!” He roared out.
Now understanding he knew I was faking being barely above him I could hear it. This wasn’t frustration it was a voice filled with shame and humiliation twisting into the outlet of anger.
What is this!?
His first words after our first trade of blows flashed in my head. From the beginning he knew and yet he still hadn’t forfeited. The pride that wouldn’t let him call it in the face of futility forcing him to suffer the agonizing humiliation of being played with.
The worst thing I could have imagined happening happened. I was stuck.
Aegris roared once more charging over with his shield at his helm and his sword following a bit behind to the side. Even now he would push himself to do his best his pride could only continue to allow himself to be messed with by me. He wouldn’t, he couldn’t, forfeit after promising to show me his strength.
If only I understood this sooner. If only I understood the virtues of this world quicker.
It was too late now, however, I spun my spear in my hands then changed my stance as Aegis would soon arrive.
It’s long dark blade pointed slightly downwards while my eyes followed Aegris as he scorched the last few patches of flowers.
With a torrent of strength, I forced him to release his shield and blocked the attack from his sword.
The best thing I could do if I felt an ounce of remorse was to end this quickly.
I’m sorry… I wanted to say, but the words never came out.
I was going to save this for much later in the tournament, but was the best I could do for him. I was going to use Frozen Lock.
Aegris dashed around me with his sword encased in red radiance, every blow would send a tsunami of flames to try and drown me in their heat and fire.
Feeling the flow I began to see openings. Tensing my arms as I circulated mana I slashed forward when I saw the opportunity within our skirmish.
Aegris unable to absorb the force was tossed back defending the attack with the same energy output I had used on my first match. Shooting like a star he crashed into a meadow of black flowers releasing pink pollen.
Leaving a crater in his crashing stop I had already arrived using the maximum speed I could safely pass off to see Aegris entrapped with a brace of ice across his chest and arms pinning flat him on the floor.
I looked down to see again the hateful gaze of the unmoving Aegris. His eyes filled with an undying heat and rage exploding as his body was trying its hardest to move and melt the ice. Not allowing myself to look away I stared back at his face dyed red in a mixture of anger and extreme exertion as I pulled my spear back and thrust down at his chest.
My spear halted right above the ice. The match was called so I disabled my magic freeing Aegris. Immediately I winced thinking he would leap up and attack me as Star King wanted to considering the amount of anger radiating from him, but as I opened my eyes I only saw him silently walking away to the circular platform.
The crowd’s cheers and announcer’s voice were drowned out by my own shame. I couldn’t imagine how Aegris felt at this moment.
I cannot truly comprehend his emotions over this. I understood them partway now, but it would take more than just a little over a year that I’ve spent to try and comprehend.
I arrived at my platform facing Aegris who glared at me at times but suddenly softened in expression before going back to angry. It was a bizarre face. He was so chaotic I couldn’t tell if he had dispelled his augmenting magic or if it was just chaotic mana getting wrapped up in his emotions.
When my platform docked back to the seating I could see Aegris already talking to his sister. Maybe it was out of desperation or out of habit but I was already walking to them.
Aegis shot a few glances at first but the third time she sent me a soul-piercing glare prompting me to halt a few steps away.
Haaa… I couldn’t help but laugh at myself half expecting her to react differently.
“Aegis, Aegris, let me explain.” I got a little closer meeting Aegis’ gaze full of disgust as she stared me down.
S-she slapped me. There was no pain but the feeling that lingered on my cheek stung more than I could have imagined.
“I’m so stupid for thinking you were different than the trash like Star King or the endless faces that flocked to us during the tournament, but it happened to be that you’re much worse.”
“You take us for fools, idiots, useless trash! How funny was it as you watched my interviews? Did you stroke yourself off sneering at us like some twisted sicko? Did your dick get hard as you played around with my brother today? Like a pet dog to train however you want!?”
“I never thought any of that!”
“Shut up! I’m so fucking disgusted I don’t want to hear it! I’m getting goosebumps just looking at you. You’re sick. Who does this, who says all of that with a straight face!? Speaking words of equal promise when my brother and I offered to show you our all. It meant nothing to you?”
Aegis bit her lip as she trembled in rage. She desperately tried and regain her calm head.
“Sorry don’t shut up. Explain it Nous! Explain those words you said to us! Why did you say them! Why didn’t you say anything about how strong you really were? Why did you go so far to humiliate us to this extent!”
I wanted to say I didn’t know or I didn’t understand, but that would only be taken for a lie. There was no one in this world that didn’t understand that saying what I said would have led to this.
“Something isn’t right in your head Nous.”
Tears began forming at the corner of her eyes. The always level and rational Aegis who awed me in her ability to control her emotions was crying. I could see her small pink lips quiver as she tried to keep herself from crying only to falter letting loose endless streaks of clears tears to slide down her rosy cheeks.
“I… I really thought.” She wiped her eyes.
“I really thought,” Aegis said again before walking away.
Aegris glare hadn’t changed one bit, in fact, it had gotten worse. Aegis was gripping his tensed hand tightly digging her nails into his skin as she was keeping him from charging me.
I tried to breathe but it felt like someone was gripping my heart. I wanted to scream out this is nothing compared to losing my parents, losing Alra, and losing Eurval, but that would have been a lie. They all hurt.
It always hurts so damn much.
And as if to give me a false glimmer of hope Aegis suddenly turned back around.
“All this time together and you completely fooled me, but if any of our time together was genuine please don’t talk or interact with us ever again. Please.”
I clenched my fists as I saw them leave. It was the next day that I had found out they had forfeited all their future matches and will stay at their current placements in this tournament.
I’m shocked by how much they despised me now. Luckily dropping out here wouldn’t change their admission.
The rest of the tournament passed in a blur and I won it. First place. The win meant nothing not even the award. The only thing I remembered was Laurent never ended up attending even Obsense was here for the final day.
“What’s not to understand, you got caught. That’s all there is to it.”
Frium answered in a matter-of-fact tone after a lengthy back and forth.
“But how? It should have been impossible for anyone to see through just from the sheer difference in strength.”
“Lucid, this wasn’t just anybody. You told me a moment ago he had been studying and watching you over the month. If he’s as good as you claimed then him seeing though you the moment your weapons touched is not too surprising.”
She had tilted her head towards the end telling me it was a little surprising.
Aegris, Aegis, just how much did they study me and why so far…
“Dammit, why didn’t you tell me that!?”
“How could I have told you when you told me about this just now? I know you’re not from this world so I get why you don’t understand how gravely you insulted them. But does your world not have common sense? You shouldn’t have said you would reciprocate their intentions if you weren’t going to return them with sincerity.”
The flash of anger subsided as she was completely right. I was mad at myself most of all for getting caught trying to manipulate their perception of me.
“Sorry, I really did like them and I ruined it so I’m lashing.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re lucky you’re all below the apostle stage any stronger and this would have been much worse. Anyways let’s discuss your fights.”
Frium understood my side as well as theirs making me feel vented, but I could do nothing with the siblings at the moment. No amount of days seemed to have changed their feelings. I had tried to visit their tent site only to catch a glimpse of Aegris crying into Aegis’ shoulder when I peeked through their partially open door.
Before they saw me I left.
I really don’t get it.
But I did get that a half-apology wouldn’t suffice. It’s not like I could tell them about my clash with Laurent, The Niefule Empire, and probably the Scale religion. They didn’t need to be thrown into the fray for no reason other than me wanting to be close with them.
I discussed my fights for a good while as it was my first few times using Frozen Lock in combat. It was hard and also the first step into learning how to keep magic in a stable existence far from me for prolonged periods.
At the end of our lesson, my emotions had calmed down. Somewhat.
“And not just the feedback but earlier too you have an oath to me but I’m glad you didn’t just blindly take my side.”
“It’s nothing, b-besides I’m acting as your older sister right? So don’t mention anything about me acting this way.”
I smiled at the projection of Frium as she looked away. She tries her hardest to be stoic and icy, but the moment something a bit surprising lands on her she loses control and shows her flustered self.
With our call over I said my goodbyes and laid down to go to sleep after doing my daily routines.
But it seemed today there was a restlessness in me.
Was this bed always this uncomfortable? I tossed myself flipping around.
What’s up with all the talking outside too? Shut up! I want to sleep!
Why is this place so damn lively today?
I shuffled and turned in my bed failing at the task of meeting the lucids.
“Tch.” Finally, I gave up and threw off my blanket and ran out of the door after putting on regular clothes.
A barbecue? In a small open area at the center was a large tied up hyre dripping glistening drops of fat causing the fire to sizzle below.
Someone had shared their spoils to eat.
I looked at the people here and saw most were participants. There I saw the Gidder siblings. Getting closer their two pairs of eyes that had been full of smiles turned cold as they locked with mine before looking away.
“Lumi? Lumi right?” Hearing my name be called I turned away too.
“It is youuuu! Oh my I’ve never seen you at these events.”
Talking was a girl around the same age as me her loud voice also served as a call to her group of friends.
“Well actually a lot of us have been meaning to meet you but you always disappear after the tournament do you hate us…” She pouted, her greens eyes looking up at me.
You all wanted to meet me? She really thinks I would believe such a blatant lie? When did they want to meet me? I was a nobody even with the siblings for 99% of the tournament, but now after I won they’ve been meaning to see me?
I wanted to walk away but remembered they would probably be future cadets.
“I hope you didn’t think I’m ignoring you. I was just so focused on the tournament. Winning meant a lot to me so I’m happy everyone understood and let me fall into my routine.” I let out a bright smile.
Hearing my response her pout disappeared.
“Haha… of course! I’ve always seen how diligent you are it’s no wonder you won.” She said bashfully.
Seeing her get so shy I put my hand on her shoulder along with one of the guys that had come.
“You’re too kind. But… thank you. Those words mean a lot and it makes me glad we’ll all be spending much more time at the academy.”
I could tell they wanted to talk more but the siblings began to leave.
“Sorry, I have to go somewhere. We should talk again another time!”
Quickly, I parted while the group seemed to be in a daze as I briskly walked towards the direction I saw them leave. Towards the forest.
“He’s like so niceeee. You idiot! Why did you tell me he was a cold jerk! I would’ve been more friendly from the start!”
“S-sorry. I didn’t know it either I thought he would be like the other bunch of assholes that got into the top 100.”
“Ahh! He left and we didn’t get his contact info!”
I overheard their conversation as I made it out of their sight.
My eyes searched for the siblings but they were already gone.
What am I doing? They wouldn’t want to talk to me even id they were near.
I wanted to see that they were alright past the smiles being served to fellow future cadets. Aegis had done well and directed their early forfeiture of the tournament due to injuries while training. With Star King’s explosive self-inflected show everyone easily believed that everyone was pushing themselves past their 110% so they got no flack and instead a lot of sympathy. But I was still worried.
Seeing them no where in sight and the celebration getting louder I just continued walking straight.
Maybe he could cheer me up…
—Bzzzt Bzzzt Bzzzt
The call continued to ring but in the end Alexander didn’t pick up.
“What am I doing? He told me he would be busy after the tournament…” I sighed heavily talking to myself.
For what reason was I so restless today? I slept just fine the last few days, but something just has me on edge putting my emotions and body in complete turmoil.
What could be causing this? The only odd thing that stuck out to me was the missing Laurent followed by Obsense, but I couldn’t piece anything together.
Walking and walking trying to get away from the noise before I knew it I had entered deept into forest. Gone was all the noise of people but my restlessness had only gotten worse.
There was no reason for me to be afraid either. What hyre could hurt me?
The real danger was how sickening the rich and lively atmosphere behind had been making me feel. I thought I would get a respite from it all and reminisce about my days of camping and hunting out alone.
What was the point of even chasing after them earlier? An impulse out of desperation from seeing the genuine of a connection I lost after interacting with by opportunistic new faces most likely.
But what gives me the right to be disgusted by them if I do the same thing.
Maybe Aegis wasn’t wrong, I’m sick. I’m sick of always feeling an incongruity with the environment surrounding me. Sick of how I always fallback and put on airs. Sick of always trying to control how people perceive me and how they interacted with me.
Using Kevin to handle Alice and the school. Using Noe and Ester to deal with Kevin. Using Alice to control…
Wanting to use Aegis and Aegris to influence the Academy…
What a joke. I smiled bitterly seeing where I had finally stopped. The large rock formation looking over the 8 shaped lake. Feeling this was far enough, I slumped down with my feet sticking over the edge and gazed with unfocused eyes.
Maybe losing Eurval was my punishment. Maybe I deserved this. Eurval was a being that could read my thoughts, my intentions, and understand me at my core melding with me. A bond that was supposed to be inseparable was torn apart, maybe that was justice in fate’s eyes.
Breathing in the late night air alone was what I deserved.
At least alone I knew nothing would change. Who could I hurt here? Who could hurt me here? There was nothing but the murmur of a sleeping forest and the darkness of night’s muted colors reflecting on the still lake. All of it blanketed in twinkling stars.
Although restless and wanting to scream I hadn’t lost sight of my goal and tomorrow I would continue again marching forward until I completed it.
But at least for tonight I would wallow in my own self-pity, sometime in the future I’ll have the time to deal with fixing myself.
So my eyes continued unfocused staring out at nothing in particular while my thoughts were inundated with loathing and loneliness.
“Every relationship I build is as weak and fragile as the bond my parents had with me.”
Is it petty to still blame them for everything? I wonder.
Sitting quietly, I felt a nice breeze come in so I closed my eyes.
But when I opened them my vision didn’t return, I was left a bit confused. It was then that I felt a pair of soft but oddly hard hands over my eyes. A bizarre feeling but more bizarre was the feeling of being alert yet having no inkling of danger. To my surprise when I heard whatever was behind me speak it’s voice overlapped in an intoxicating tone that melted away all the restlessness I held.
One voice appeared in my head and the other whispering into my ear.
[Did you miss me that much?]
“Did you miss me that much?”
Ahhh poor Lucid 😦 cried a little he just wants someone to love him back. Just want to hug him 😦
And if you haven I’ve posted a new story called Vessel! It should be found here too. It’s another summoned story but with a cynical and very judgmental mc lol
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It’s still updating on Patreon and now on Royal Road.