The Selection

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Chapter 19 - Academy Year 4 - Preliminaries

The next morning we arrive at the Arena on the highest floor of the Academy. It’s a large elliptical room. Dozens of spectators are in the seats elevated around us. Most of them seem like adults much older than us. I recall from last week Moria mentioned there may be scouts from various organizations around the city that would observe the preliminaries.

Following the instructions we received last week, we go to platform number eight. Another team of six is already waiting there, but the referees haven’t arrived yet. The platform is about a foot high, made of the same material as the floor; stone. It’s a square with each side measuring over 40 feet. There’s a small black square near the top edge of the platform in front of me and on the other side. Surrounding the platform are four cylindrical devices shaped like an upside-down ‘L’ with a 45-degree bend instead of a 90-degree bend toward the center of the platform. I estimate that the vertical part of the device is about 15 feet high and the second part measures around half of that. I walk closer to examine it further; it has a slit opening on two sides of it, both pointing and parallel to the adjacent devices.

“Hey, look over there!” Hiro shouts and points at the entrance to the Arena. Several adults push carts filled with outfits of various sizes toward the platforms. I presume these are the safeguards Moria mentioned last week. Barrels containing weapons are visible on the carts too. A woman and a man in their late 30′s approach us with two carts. They are dressed casually without armor and carry no weapons.

“Mom! Dad!” Marin exclaims as she walks closer to them. “What’re you doing here?” The style and color of Marin’s hair match her mothers.

“It’s good to see you, Marin! You’ve grown a lot!” her mother exclaims, stopping the cart near us. Her father smiles but doesn’t stop to greet Marin. Instead, he continues to push his cart toward the other side of the platform. Marin follows her father with her head. “Don’t mind your father, Marin. He misses you too, but we since we’re part of the referees we have to hurry and set everything up.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“I have to set up the barriers around the platform, but how about you introduce me to your friends first. They’re behind you, right?” she asks with a smile as she turns toward us.

“Yep!” Marin exclaims as she turns toward us. She points at each of us individually while saying, “On the left that’s our Tank, Drugo. Next is our Heavy, Hiro. She’s our Mage, Luna. He’s our Light, Sitos. And that’s Kai…also our Light.”

I cock an eyebrow. “I see, so you must be the Archer, right? Just like me!”

Marin nods.

“I have to go now, but we’ll catch up later! Don’t push yourself too hard! Archers have a major disadvantage in the preliminaries, after all,” her mother warns as she walks away.

“Those two were A-class adventurers, right? They looked kinda ordinary to me,” Hiro says. Sitos stares in the opposite direction toward the spectators. I focus on him and then extrapolate where his field of vision points. There are three men seated together.

“Well, of course! They’re people too!” Luna exclaims and then Sitos turns back to us.

I ask, “Sitos, do you know those people? I saw you looking at them just now.”

“Well, yes. It is my father, older brother, and personal trainer.”

“You two are lucky… No one’s comin’ to watch the rest of us,” Hiro says and then sighs.

“What about you, Kaister? Didn’t you have Emdos?” Drugo asks. I jerk my eyebrows upward and then look in the seats around me. I narrow my eyes around everyone who are seated, eventually turning 360 degrees. Emdos is nowhere to be found. I frown.

“It doesn’t look like he’s here.”

“Don’t worry ’bout it!” Hiro exclaims and slaps me on the back.

Maybe he’s one of the referees? I look around the various platforms. There are ten in total; two rows of four platforms with the third row with only two. We’re located in the second row, fourth platform. There is no platform behind us. Emdos is not one of the referees close to us. The other referees are too far to identify. I notice Marin’s parents inserting a blue Crystal into each of the four devices placed around the platform. I figure it’s a Mana Crystal.

“We’re going to be starting soon, so hurry and put on these leather garments. As you probably have been told before, these will absorb magic attacks that hit you so you won’t have to worry about any life-threatening injuries,” Marin’s mother instructs. Afterward, we each pick out our own respective leather armors with sizes specified last week and put it on. Moments later, the sound of wood hitting each other resounds along with grunts and shouts of keywords from the other side of the Arena.

“I’ll review the rules: When the method of battle is determined, one of you will step forward onto this black square and fight a member of the opposing team. Don’t move or begin fighting until one of us has announced the start of the battle. You lose if you get knocked off of the platform, your magical armor loses its power, break the rules, don’t make an attempt to attack at least once every 30 seconds, or we determine at our discretion. If you win, you can’t fight again until every member of your team has fought at least once. Afterward, the rotation starts over, and you can fight in any order of your choice again. Losers can’t fight again for the remainder of the preliminaries. In the first phase of the preliminaries, you’ll fight this team until one of you is completely eliminated. That’s all and good luck! My husband and I will take turns drawing the method of battle,” Marin’s mother explains while on the platform.

Soon after she briefly meets up with her husband before walking back toward us. “The method of battle for the first match has been decided. It’s ‘magic only’. Please decide which one of you will fight.”

Our group turns toward each other.

“I’ll go,” Luna and Marin say simultaneously, laughing lightly afterward.

“You can go, Luna.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep, I’ll go the next time ‘magic only’ appears.” Luna steps on the platform while the rest of us observe from the side of the platform instead of behind her. Her opponent is a guy. Marin’s mother stands near Luna while her father stands near the guy.

“Fight!” Marin’s father announces. Luna raises both of her hands up but stands still. Her opponent is clenching their fists; his right arm positioned behind his body like he wants to throw something and his left hand in front of his chest. 20 seconds pass. I gulp, knowing that they both will have to make a move soon, or both of them will lose by default.

Soon after, the guy makes the first move; he begins to run toward Luna while maintaining the same arm positions. The distance is about 20 feet apart when the guy snaps his right arm forward, revealing a rock that flies through the air toward Luna.

"Blow!" Luna shouts while aiming her right palm toward the rock that flies toward her face. Her palm is angled slightly to the left. A gust of wind appears from her palm, and the rock slows down and swerves off course. The rock flies past the platform and eventually crashes into an invisible wall. There’s a blue light surrounding the impact point. Luna stretches out her left arm and points her palm toward her opponent. ”Fireball!"

A large flaming sphere of fire emerges from her palm that heads quickly toward her opponent’s head. The diameter of the sphere is a little over a foot. By this time, the rock has disappeared from my sights, and the wall is invisible again.

"Buckler!" the guy shouts. A round flat shield-like object appears on his left forearm made out of stone. The diameter of the shield is just enough to cover the size of the fireball. He immediately moves his left arm to block Luna’s magic. He grunts as the force of Luna’s magic pushes him slightly backward. Luna’s left palm is now facing us with three of her fingers pointed forward.

"Fireball barrage!"

A miniature fireball appears from each of her three fingers that gradually increase in size as they fly straight toward her opponent. The diameter of these fireballs is only about half a foot. After the previous ball of fire dissipates into the air, her opponent puts down his left arm but puts it up again in a hurry. Cracks appear throughout his shield. All three fireballs hit him at around the same time. Other than the fireball that he blocks partially with his shield, the other two balls of fire hit him directly in the chest and the legs. His shield crumbles and the last fireball lands on his face.

“Ahh!” he screams as he falls backward, landing flat on his back. Luna has been running toward him. She stands in front of his fallen body with her palms facing him.

“Stop! The winner is team three!” Marin’s mother announces. We congratulate Luna on her win as she rejoins us. Marin’s father helps the guy get on his feet and lends him a shoulder off the platform. They head in another direction afterward.

“Where’s he goin’? Whatabout our next match?” Hiro asks.

“We’ll resume after my husband escorts him to the medics.”

“Sorry, it was my fault… I should’ve held back more,” Luna apologizes.

“Don’t be. It wasn’t anything life threatening. If it were, one of us would have intervened before it happened.”

“I thought the leather armor protected us…” Hiro mutters.

“Moron, it obviously can’t absorb the attacks that don’t land on our torso where the armor covers,” I answer. A few minutes later, Marin’s father comes back and hands a small enclosed box to his wife, who then takes out a piece of paper from it.

“For the next match, it’s ‘no weapons.’ Get ready,” Marin’s mother informs and then puts the paper back into the box, giving it back to her husband afterward.

“Leave this one to me,” Drugo says as he steps onto the platform. He stands opposite of his opponent, who happens to be a girl this time. We still observe from the side point of view, and the referees stand in similar positions from before.

“Hey, Drugo! Go easy on her since it’s a girl!” Hiro exclaims.

“Fight!”

Drugo immediately sprints toward his opponent. He puts his guard up similar to a boxing pose. The girl puts up her palms which face each other about two feet apart and pointed outward. She shouts, ”Fireball!"

A ball of fire comes out of her palms and heads straight toward Drugo, who is about 20 feet away. The size of the fireball comes out immediately. It’s about two feet in diameter and doesn’t change in size. Drugo doesn’t slow down his charge. He shouts, ”Deflect!"

Unrefined Mana envelops his hands. When the ball of fire is about a foot away from his face, he punches it with his right fist. The fireball changes direction toward the spectators. They back away from the trajectory of the fireball, but it disperses when it comes into contact with the barrier. It fizzes into nothing. Drugo, who doesn’t stop his charge is now a few feet in front of the girl. She turns her head away with both arms up covering her face. He stops when he’s literally in front of the girl. He extends both of his arms and then pushes her off the platform.

“The winner is team three!” Marin’s mother declares while Drugo walks back toward us. We give him a few congratulatory words, but the next match begins shortly.

“Anything can be used for the next match. Remember that your weapon supply is limited throughout all the matches so do be careful about how you use them,” Marin’s father cautions. Sitos walks over to the cart containing the weapons and then picks out a sword with a 3.5 feet wooden blade in his left hand and another with the shortest blade of 1.5 feet in his dominant hand. I cock an eyebrow thinking that he usually takes the two longest swords of equal length.

“I guess Sitos’ fighting this one,” Luna says with a smile.

“Yes. I will end it within ten seconds,” Sitos claims confidently as he gets into the starting position on the platform. His opponent carries a large thick sword with both of his hands.

“Fight!” Sitos immediately charges toward his opponent, who only move slowly toward Sitos with his blade tilted on his right side. When the gap between them is only about ten feet, Sitos throws the short sword in his right hand at his opponent’s left side. His opponent stops moving and then swings his blade toward the left side. He knocks the sword away. By this time, Sitos already has moved his other weapon into his right hand. He swings it down on his opponent’s blade. A clear sound of wood hitting each other resounds. Sitos already has his left hand on his opponent’s hand.

"Electrocute!"

“Ah!” Sparks of electricity fly near Sitos’ left hand as his opponent interjects. Subsequently, his opponent drops his weapon, and Sitos swings down his sword again but stops before it lands on the top of his head.

“The winner is team three!” Marin’s mother announces. Sitos picks up the sword he threw before he returns the weapons to the barrels on the cart. At the same time, Marin’s father picks up the heavy sword and then helps the other guy get off the platform. Afterward, he puts back the heavy sword back onto the other team’s supply of weapons.

“I was wondering what you were gonna do to win so fast, but wasn’t that too risky?” I ask as Sitos walks back toward us.

“Not at all. I was prepared to throw my other sword too if he did not have any openings after the first one. If by some chance he was not a complete pushover, I would have been willing to take a hit in order to disable him afterward.”

“That never would’ve worked with real weapons.”

“And here we are using practice weapons, so it did.”

I sigh before saying, “I suppose that’s true.”

“Anything can be used for the next match. Prepare yourself.”

“I guess I’ll fight this time,” I offer as I pick out the two swords with the longest blades. I climb onto the platform in the starting position. I wait for the start of the match with my arms completely relaxed. The guy in front of me uses a sword and a shield.

“Fight!” I walk casually toward my opponent in the same stance while programming my magical attack. I break down some of my Mana into Rich Mana to prepare.

Hmm… I’ll focus on velocity and power… My opponent sidesteps slowly toward me with his shield facing me. When the gap between us is about 20 feet apart, I raise my right arm up, putting my sword over my left shoulder with my elbow pointing directly at him. He stops moving with his guard still up. I raise my left blade too as a feint while moving slowly toward him, who continues to stand still. I lower my left blade as I finish the final touches to my magic. I sprint forward and shout, ”Fireball!"

A ball of fire shoots out of my right elbow straight ahead with a diameter of a foot. Marin’s mother steps in front of me, and then I stop. Her husband tackles my opponent before my attack reaches him. My fireball crashes into the barrier where visible cracks appear near the point of impact. The crackling sounds continue, ending with the sound of glass breaking when my magic pierces through the barrier. The referee in the platform in front of us turns around and then shouts, ”Extinguish!"

A stream of water comes out of both palms of his hands that head for my fireball. Some of the water turns into steam as it comes into contact with my magic, but my magic dies out completely within a second. When he closes his palms, water stops coming out of his hands, but before that some water blasts toward our platform. The water spills onto the floor, forming a puddle near our platform.

“Dear, are you alright?” Marin’s mother asks as she runs up to him on the ground.

“Ye-yeah… I think that attack burned my left shoulder a little, though.” He gets up while clenching his right shoulder. My eyes wander around me. The other students and referees are looking in this direction.

“That really caught me off guard… To think that there are students capable of fully utilizing Rich Mana… Marin’s friends are something else.”

I grin. “Umm… This means I win, right?”

“Oh, right. I forgot to announce it. Due to safety concerns, team three wins!” Marin’s mother declares. I put my weapons back in the barrels before I rejoin the rest of the group. Marin’s wears a worried face.

“Sorry, Marin… I think I hurt your dad.”

“Umm…no…it’s okay. I don’t think it was a big injury.”

“Kai, you’re too strong… I bet they’ll let you win by default every time now when magic’s allowed,” Hiro says.

“I hope not because that’s no fun…” I reply while frowning. I look back toward the referees, realizing that the other referee who casted Water magic from before came over to talk to our referees. I can’t make out what they’re saying.

“The school should have already known something like this would happen… Are Moria and the others brain dead?” Sitos asks.

“They might’ve forgotten since Kai hasn’t shown up to class as often recently,” Luna mentions while staring at me like I’m at fault. I smile and chuckle.

“I agree with Lunaster. I think that’s what they’re discussing now,” Drugo says as he gestures his head toward the platform. A few seconds later, Marin’s father runs toward the platform my fireball went to; it’s apparent that he’s switching with the other referee. Marin’s mother goes to the magical item placed on the ground on the side where the barrier broke. She opens the device, takes out a blue crystal, examines it for a few seconds, and then puts it back in.

“We’ll go ahead and begin our next fight for ‘weapons only,’” The new referee says.

“Wait! Can you explain what just happened? They won their last match before our guy did anything!” a member of the other team exclaims.

“Well, it was because of safety—”

“You said that we didn’t have to worry about anything life-threatening while wearing these leather garments! I might have been able to do something about it!”

Marin’s mother doesn’t respond. Several seconds pass and then the new referee asks, “You all saw what happened to the barrier, right? The amount of guaranteed protection the leather garments has about the same as the barrier. Did you really want to be standing there?”

The guy I beat turns pale and looks down.

“Now, that’s settled. Prepare for the ‘weapons only’ fight.”

“Finally, it’s my turn! Y’all will see me in all my glory now!” Hiro bursts out while running toward our weapon supply. He takes out the only available heavy weapon; the large sword I saw someone use earlier. He goes onto the platform, and the battle begins soon after.

“Fight!”

Someone whispers something behind me I can’t make out. I turn around. Marin is whispering something to Luna. I ask, “What’re you guys talking about?”

Both of them turn their view toward me as I ask.

“It’s nothing! Marin’s just worried about next match.”

“Oh, that’s right… She will have to fight next regardless of the method of battle. Is there anything we can do?”

“There is nothing to do other than praying for a favorable outcome,” Sitos states with his arms crossed.

“Your mom said you didn’t have to try too hard. Just give up if you need to, Marinster.”

“Maybe...” Marin says quietly while smiling.

“Stop! Team three wins!” I look back at the platform. Hiro’s opponent is on the ground with his swords on the ground a few feet away from him. Hiro grins broadly as he runs off the platform, putting back his weapon.

“Did ya see how I knocked his weapons outta his hands?!”

“Uh, yeah… It was amazing,” I respond, forcing a smile.

“You are too good,” Sitos says while giving him a thumbs-up. Luna and Marin clap with forced smiles.

“What’s with the weak reaction…? Whatabout ya Drugo? How was my match? Amazin’, right?” Hiro asks enthusiastically as he turns toward Drugo. I skeptically curl one side of my lips upward.

“I was a bit concerned at first, but more importantly, Marinster’s gonna fight next.”

Nice one, Drugo! I give him a thumbs-up. He responds with a small smile.

“The next battle is ‘weapons only’ again. Get ready,” the new referee announces. I frown. Everyone sighs except Hiro.

“What’s with ya’ll? Marin’s goin’ to win! I have faith! Don’t lose, Marin!”

“Hey, don’t pressure her!” Luna exclaims. Marin’s eyes are slightly shaky. She widens her eyes and looks up.

“I’m going to try!” she declares as she walks toward the cart containing the weapons.

“Does Marin know how to use anything other than the bow?” I ask quietly.

“She knows how to use a skinning knife…” Luna responds quietly. I relax my facial expressions.

She can’t win… She decides to wield a light club only 1.5 feet long with both hands. Her opponent dual-wields two of the medium-length swords with blades of 2.5 feet. I look into Marin’s mother’s eyes. It’s shaky.

“Fight!”

Marin holds the club directly in front of her as she walks slowly toward her opponent. The sword user strangely doesn’t make any movements. Ten seconds pass before her opponent suddenly charges forward with both arms stretched behind his back, with full swings ready to go. The best thing Marin can do is charge forward and strike him before he does… She’s going for it!

Marin holds her weapon above her head but doesn’t charge forward. The gap between them shortens rapidly to just five feet. At this point, Marin takes a step forward and then swings down her weapon in front of her, fully extending her arms. Miraculously, the blow lands on her opponent’s head, and he stops his charge. He doesn’t move for several seconds, and I can see Marin’s expression lighten up with a small smile emerging on her face. When she lifts up her weapon away from his face, his eyebrows are narrowed with his eyes twitching.

“That hurt, you bitch!” he shouts as he begins to swing both of his swords at Marin relentlessly. Marin closes her eyes as she blindly holds her club in front of her while randomly moving it around. Her opponent swings widely and continuously that land all over her arms, torso, and legs. Her entire face grimaces as it’s turned toward us pressed against her right shoulder. She slowly walks backward while making muffled cries of pain.

I look toward Marin’s mother, wondering why she hasn’t ended the match; the winner is clear. She looks worried and uneasy, but she doesn’t do anything else.

I close my eyes for a moment to think. I open my eyes and raise my eyebrows. I yell, “Marin, drop your weapon! Then the match will be stopped!”

She doesn’t do it even after several seconds pass. I frown and knit my eyebrows. Damn, why is she trying so hard? She clearly can’t win…

Marin screams as one of the blows knock her down, but she still holds onto her weapon. The guy is breathing a little hard as Marin’s mother steps between them. She faces the sword user and says, “Wait a moment.”

“Marin, just give up!” Luna exclaims. Marin slowly stands up.

“Marin, can you continue?” her mother asks firmly as she turns to face her.

“Yes,” Marin replies while holding her club in front of her again.

“Resume,” Marin’s mother says as she steps away. Her opponent charges immediately at Marin again, mercilessly swinging his swords left and right at her. This time, Marin’s eyes are open half of the time. She moves her club in the direction of his attacks, but she’s overpowered. She continues to take blows from all over the sides of her torso. With every blow she takes, she twists her face and shuts her eyes for a moment. I frown, clenching my teeth and my fists.

“Marin, you can do it!” Hiro exclaims.

Damn, that guy isn’t even going easy… He could easily knock her weapon outta her hand or push her off the platform…

“He is dragging this out on purpose. What a sick bastard,” Sitos says. I turn around observing everyone else. There’s murderous intent coming out of Sitos and Drugo while Luna’s eyes are teary.

“Go, Marin! Fight!” Hiro cheers.

I grab the front of Hiro’s shirt with both hands and exclaim, “Hey, instead of cheering, make her give up! Don’t you see she can’t win?”

“What match are ya watchin’, Kai? Her opponent’s almost outta breath, and she just landed more attacks.” I let him go and then turn toward the match. Her opponent pants for air while standing a couple of feet away from her. Marin charges forward for the first time, putting her opponent on the defensive. He doesn’t make an effort to attack and simply blocks her blocks from above with both swords. I widen my eyes and smile slightly.

Can she really do it…? My smile disappears as the force behind Marin’s blows grows weak after only seven more swings. She begins to pant heavily. Her weapon is lowered, but she doesn’t let it go. A smirk emerges on the guy’s face. Before there’s any time for me to yell out or the referee to intervene, he makes a wide swing with his right arm. The incoming blow lands on Marin’s face. She screams as she falls on the platform while finally letting go of her weapon.

“Stop! Team eighteen wins!” Marin’s mother announces and then crouches down to Marin. She supports the upper part of Marin’s body off the ground with an arm. “Marin… You did a good job… I’ll take you to the medics now.”

“Wait, no…” Marin mutters as she struggles out of her mother’s arms. Afterward, she grimaces, probably from all the bruises she has all over her body.

“Don’t be stubborn, Marin. The pain will subside after you get some help. Look, even your face is bleeding from that last attack,” her mother says as she touches Marin’s cheek. Marin jerks her head away as she does. She glances over to us for a moment before whispering something in her mother’s ear. Her mother smiles and laughs as she carries Marin over to us. She rests her on the ground beside us before she goes back to the platform to put back Marin’s weapon.

“Marin, I didn’t expect much, but you did well!” I exclaim. She smiles, blushes, and looks away.

“Kai, that first part wasn’t necessary!” Luna exclaims as she looks at me. She relaxes her facial expressions and then turns to Marin before continuing, “We all saw you tried your hardest! It was a good attempt!”

“You weakened the opponent, so it makes our last win quite easy,” Sitos adds.

“Speakin’ of the next fight, any of us can go now, right?” Hiro asks.

“No weapons for the next fight! Get ready!” the new referee announces.

“I’ll go,” Drugo, Sitos, and I simultaneously declare. We look at each other for several seconds.

“I do not have a problem if Kai goes.”

“Same here.”

“I’ll get revenge for you, Marin,” I say and then smile. She doesn’t say anything back, but I’m not offended. I step on the platform and then stand on the black square. My opponent stands stiffly in his starting position.

“Fight!” I immediately sprint toward my opponent with my fists clenched. The referees’ expression changes as they move closer to us. I sigh lightly while releasing some of my anger as I continue running toward my opponent. I program some new instructions at the same time using Scrap Mana. My enemy starts running at me too. I open my right fist pointing my palm toward him when the gap is about ten feet between us.

"Fireball!" I shout. A few sparks of fire comes out, but nothing else. My opponent stops running and dives sideways when I shouted my keyword. The new referee jumps back with his palm facing me, but I focus on my opponent on the ground. He has his eyebrows knitted and lips twisted as he stares at me with his back on the ground. I smirk before proceeding to jump on him with my feet bent back. I land while kneeing him in his nether region. He drops his jaws and widens his eyes while letting out a brief scream of pain. He jerks his body around while pressing both of his hands between his legs. I hold down his arms with my shins with my knee on his shoulder.

Knowing that the fight will be stopped soon, I throw my arms back, ready to senselessly pummel him to oblivion. But I am careful not to have any intention of real harm so that I’m not immediately stopped. I rain down a flurry of punches in rhythm on his face, with my right fist hitting his left cheek, and vice versa with my left fist. I punch him five times before the new referee yells, “Stop!”

Thinking that it probably won’t hurt me to get a few more hits in, I don’t stop, despite the whimpering of my opponent. The footsteps resound louder with every step. “Didn’t you hear me?! Stop!”

I end it with one last punch in the center of his face. Subsequently, the new referee tackles me. “Hey, why didn’t you stop him? You were standing right there!”

The new referee is looking at Marin’s mother who’s standing next to me. “After watching the last match, I thought I should let the match go on for a bit longer before making a conclusive decision on the end of the match.”

The new referee looks down on me. “I can disqualify you for not obeying the referee… You should have heard me tell you to stop.”

“I’m really sorry… I could barely hear the voice I thought it came from one of the nearby platforms…” I lie with a straight face. My fists throb with pain.

“It should be fine just to let him off with a warning… It’s not like he delivered any mortal injuries.”

The referee on top of me sighs before he says, “Don’t let this happen again, you hear?”

He gets off me. I stand up and reply, “I understand.”

“Team three wins and moves onto phase two!” Marin’s mother announces. I examine my fists and find that my punches broke through some of the skin. There’s some blood dripping down onto the platform. The guy on the ground has a bloodied nose and bruised cheeks with marks of blood. I smile at him before walking back toward my group. As I do, Marin’s mother’s eyes meet mine. I look away and drop my smile. I stop when she puts her hand on my shoulder. She quietly says, “Thanks. I feel better now.”

I smile again as she lets go of me. Drugo and Sitos are smiling while nodding their heads.

“Rest in peace…” Hiro mutters with his eyes closed and hands in prayer in front of him.

“Kai, didn’t you go too far? You almost got us disqualified! Look, you even injured your hand…” Luna says as she grabs my right hand. I pull back immediately while blushing a little.

“It’s fine! This is nothing compared to what Marin received,” I respond while not making any eye contact.

“We finished our matches, and there’re still other people fighting… Let’s go to the medic station for Marin and Kai!” Luna suggests.

“Sounds good,” I answer as I offer a hand to help Marin stand up. I cock an eyebrow when she doesn’t take hold of it. She looks away.

“Kai, what’re you trying to do with an injured hand?” Luna asks.

“Oh…right,” I respond quietly, with my face burning up. Drugo and Sitos lend their shoulders to help Marin walk. The rest of us follow behind them toward the medic station.

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