The Selection

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Chapter 23 - Academy Year 4 - Brute Force

Back at our home, Luna cooks some leftover rabbit from last night for me. I eat my fill and then spend the remaining time relaxing. Eventually, the fated hour arrives. We meet at the Arena and then change our leather garments with the newly provided ones on the usual cart.

“It seems both teams are ready. I will explain the rules. The name of the game is ‘Eliminate the King.’ The rules are very simple. Each team will designate a King or Queen. The King or Queen will wear a crown to indicate that he or she is the King or Queen. The winning condition is to use simply whatever means to take the crown off the opposing team’s head,” a referee explains. “Now, who will be the King or Queen from each team?”

Everyone looks toward Marin. She smiles before saying, “I’ll be the Queen.”

One of the referees hands her a crown. She puts it on tightly on the top of her head.

“I am the Queen,” a girl from the other team says. It’s their Mage.

“You have this entire Arena open to you to battle it out. You will start at opposite ends of the Arena before we announce the start of the game.” We do as he instructs and move to the designated location. “Fight!”

We move forward as a group with Marin placed in the back. Our opponents seem to do the same while separated into two groups. The axe user is by himself at least 20 feet ahead of his team.

"Whirlwind!" the axe user yells as he starts to spin rapidly in a circle counter-clockwise while moving closer to us.

“Luna, it’s up to you to stop him again!” Hiro exclaims.

"Stream!" A stream of water comes out of the spear user’s palm. She aims it so that it is mostly evenly distributed around the vortex of the tornado around the axe user. The elliptical shield guy projects several rocks from his palm and mixes it into the vortex. The resulting debris circling the axe user obscures our vision from the rest of his team.

“I don’t think I can stop that…” Luna says. We stare blankly at the spiraling tornado of doom heading toward us.

“Wake up you dimwits! Incoming arrows!” Sitos warns. Marin counters the volley of arrows with her own arrows as usual. They get knocked into the vortex. “Let us split into pairs and ditch this guy. This asshat will not be able to do anything if we move closer to his teammates. Marin can outrun at the pace he is moving at. I will go with Luna.”

"Ahhh!" the circular shield guy yells from the other side. A giant spherical rock flies over the vortex. I think to move aside for a moment, but I realize it’s overshot and simply stand still. Everyone raises their heads up as it misses us completely.

“I’ll stay with Marinster,” Drugo says.

“I guess that means I’m with Hiro. We’ll go from the right side, and you guys go from the left,” I say.

“Let us go,” Sitos says. He and Luna run off. We do the same, running past the tornado guy from the right side. Their team stands still. The two Tanks are at the front, with everyone else behind him. I knit my eyebrows and stop running. I raise my eyebrows and then turn around. The Archer is aiming an arrow at Marin beside a broken rock. I’m decisive as I throw my right sword at her. I make sure to aim it so that she would undoubtedly take a step to the left. The arrow travels in the air shortly after I throw my sword.

Marin! Please react! I pray as I continue to run toward her. She knits her eyebrows and then takes a step to the left. A split second later, the arrow zooms past the top of her head, eventually spiraling in the vortex about 30 feet in front of her. My sword clangs and then slides along the stone floor. Marin opens her mouth and then turns around, finally taking notice of the enemy. Drugo, who has been several feet in front of Marin turns around too. He charges toward the Archer.

In a matter of seconds, the enemy Archer drops his weapon and then puts his hands in the air. “Let’s no-not be hasty here… I give up…”

He takes off his leather garments and then drops it on the floor. I pick up my sword.

“Kai, you saved us from losing that game… I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw you…throw your weapon at me,” Marin says worrisomely and then sighs.

“Good thinking, Kaister. I should’ve been paying more attention to Marinster.”

“Nah, it wasn’t your fault. No one could’ve predicted that someone was hiding inside that rock. Moreover, it was probably that guy with ridiculous strength who had chucked that rock over in the first place. Let’s just hope the others are successful in their attempt to take the crown,” I say as I turn to face the vortex. The others are coming back from the left side of the tornado.

“Kai, where the hell did ya go?!” Hiro exclaims. “I didn’t even realize ya abandoned me!”

“If it weren’t for Kai, we would’ve lost already,” Marin explains as she points to the Archer behind us.

“So that is where he was…” Sitos mutters. “We could not break their line of defense in the back. They are huddled together like freshly hatched baby chicks. Completely helpless otherwise.”

He points to the tornado guy behind him with his thumb and continues, “Let us run around until this guy runs out of Mana.”

“Sounds like a plan Sitoster.”

I frown and say, “I don’t like that idea. I’d rather beat them with brute force. They called us cowards…”

We casually move away from the incoming tornado of doom as we converse. Sitos says, “Throw away those emotions, Kai. Those monkeys are trying to get into your head. We do not have to play by their shitty rules. We just need to win. The tactic they just tried right now is very cowardly in comparison…”

“You’re right…but I think we should go with Kai’s idea. Like Marin said, if it weren’t for Kai, we would’ve lost already,” Luna says.

Sitos doesn’t say anything for several seconds. He sighs before saying, “Fine…but how will we stop that while he is still working his magic?”

“Marin should shoot an arrow into the top of the vortex,” Hiro suggests.

“Wow, you actually say some good things sometimes.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Kai?”

“Unfortunately, I’m not good at lob shots… Sorry,” Marin apologizes. Several seconds of silence follows.

Luna exclaims, “I got it! Maybe…”

She explains her idea and what would need to happen after that. After a minute of planning, our backs are nearly against the starting point of the game. As she approaches the spinning vortex in front of us, she says, “Here I go.”

She paces herself to the right side of him from our position. The distance between her and the tornado is about 30 feet, decreasing every passing second. She stands still, pointing both her palms forward. I don’t notice any changes to the approaching spiraling winds. When the distance between them is about 15 feet, some of the debris fly out in random directions. It doesn’t take long before all of the water and rocks leave the vortex completely, leaving only the axe user spinning around. His teammates have been following closely behind.

Marin shoots an arrow at the exact moment the axe user is no longer unreachable. The arrow changes its course slightly, but it still manages to pierce his left thigh. He staggers a little. Hiro, who has been charging at him doesn’t miss his chance. He connects his sledgehammer with the axe user with a spinning swing of his own. The blow knocks him down. I charge in to slash him with my swords, but the circular shield guy blocks my attack. I jump back as the rest of his team runs in front of him. The Wind user pants heavily as he barely supports himself in a sitting position with his arms on the ground behind him.

Their Mage pulls out the arrow in the axe user’s leg and then puts her hands over his wound. ”Heal!"

A few seconds later, she removes her hands from his injury, revealing that the wound has closed. The axe user says, “I can’t use that move for much longer… I need to save some Mana for the next round too.”

I smile before saying, “So you guys weren’t so tough after all. Have you given up now that you can’t hide behind your barrier of wind?”

They whisper amongst themselves while still keeping their guards up.

“Hey, Kai. Are we going to give these imbeciles more time to plan too?” Sitos asks.

“I don’t see why not. What can they do with four people against the six of us?” After 30 seconds have passed, their skin turns bluish like before. A split second later, they suddenly change formation. The two Tanks line up side by side with the spear user in the middle of them with her spear sticking out between the two in front. The axe user is behind the spear user, and their Queen is behind the axe user.

“Charge!” the two Tanks yell as they sprint toward us. They are on direct course toward Marin. I drop my smile and fall back to rejoin with Marin.

Hmm… Drugo will be able to block that spear quite easily… Do they really think they can win against the six…wait… I raise my eyebrows. Luna hasn’t regrouped with us. She has one of her palms pointed toward the Mage behind the charge. Suddenly, the enemy team turns 90-degrees instantly toward Luna. I run full speed to intercept them before they can reach her. Luna opens her mouth and puts her arms down. She jumps backward, but she doesn’t get much more of a lead. They are less than ten feet from her. Damn, not again!

I grit my teeth as I hopelessly try to intercept them in time to save Luna. An arrow covered in dirt flies by the right side of my head. It continues toward the two Tanks leading the charge. Marin shouts, ”Scatter!"

A dirt cloud forms instantly around the arrow, obscuring my vision of the arrow. The enemy gradually stops their charge and then flails their shields around. “Wh-what the…how—”

The three at the front of their charge cough uncontrollably. The dirt cloud moves toward their backline. Luna’s palm is pointed toward them. I smile and change my course toward their Queen instead.

"Up flow!" the axe user exclaims, apparently directing airflow upward. The dirt cloud quickly clears up, but it’s too late. By the time they have opened their eyes, my arm is in mid-thrust. A split second later, my arm is fully extended. My sword pierces their crown, forcing it off of the Queen’s head.

“And that is game! Team three has won ‘Eliminate the King’ and wins the second round!” one of the referees announces. I sigh as I let the crown slide off my sword. I turn my head toward the other team.

“How did this happen… We were protected by Meredith’s magic…” the circular shield guy mutters as he drops on his knees. I smile as I make my way back toward my group with Luna by my side.

Well, you were protected…but only against magic… Marin’s specialty is Runic Magic, after all.

“Nice job, Kaister. You ended up doing all the work this time around,” Drugo says.

“Nah… I just followed up with Marin and Luna. I didn’t do much,” I say as I glance over to Marin and Luna.

“This round went by really fast… I thought it woulda been harder than the first one.”

“That is because the first team we fought were not simply monkeys grouped together. It just means the rankings in the preliminaries do not mean everything.”

“It’s still weird that the team in last place was stronger than the team in fourth…but our next opponents are strong for sure. Especially that spear user. They were team fourteen, right?” Hiro asks. I think back to the last match I fought in the preliminaries.

That guy was strong… I would’ve lost if the conditions were the same as the main tournament… There’s also that guy who can ignite his weapons on fire.

“Don’t be so scared, Hiro. We’re stronger!” Luna exclaims with confidence.

“I hope so…‘cause Sitos said rankings don’t mean everythin’. How do ya know we’re stronger?” Hiro asks with doubt.

“Hiro, stop being a wuss,” I say. I give him a death glare and ask, “Or do you actually think they’re stronger than me?”

“N-no… I guess not…” Hiro still answers with little confidence.

“What’re we still doing here? I kinda wanna go home and take a nap,” I say as my eyes wander around the Arena. The other team still hasn’t left. I cock an eyebrow as I head for the exit myself.

“I could use a nap too, actually,” Sitos says. A referee blocks me from my path to the exit.

“The other two teams are still playing their second game. Until they have finished, you can’t leave here,” he explains.

“What? Why?”

“I’m just following my orders.” I click my tongue. I turn my head around looking for a good nap spot. It’s the same everywhere. I start walking in a random direction and then lie down. I cross my hands and then support the back of my head with my palms. I close my eyes as I filter out the noise around me, voiding myself of any thoughts.

I slowly open my eyes while repeatedly closing and opening my mouth. The other team still isn’t done…?

I roll over to my right side, immediately finding Luna’s sleeping face an inch away from mine. I stare for a moment before I rear back. “Ah!”

Everyone is in a sleeping position around me. A few seconds later, several of them start to move, including Luna. I turn my head all around me, taking notice that the entire Arena is empty. Luna rubs her eyes with her hand and asks, “Kai…? What’s wrong…?”

“Oh… I was trying to wake you guys up because it looks like we can leave,” I explain as I just realized myself. Luna and the others yawn. Eventually, we start heading back to the dormitory together.

“Hey, did you hear? It looks like team two won by a landslide!” one of two students exclaims as they pass us.

“How did that happen?”

“I don’t know… I just know that the round was over in two games.”

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