The Selection

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Chapter 33 - Academy Year 5 - Captured

“…she…burned…use…cuffs…” Nausea encompasses my entire body. I open my eyes a little, but I see double, and everything is blurry. I can’t move my body. I close my eyes.

“…tie…too…magic…cell…” My arms are brought to my back, and something hooks them together. I’m dragged across the floor somewhere. My consciousness fades again.

I open my eyes. The feeling of weakness, drowsiness, and nausea is gone. I’m lying on a cold, stone ground. There’s a sound of a water current nearby. The sound of metal clicking resounds as I try to move my arms. I remember the brief moment of consciousness I experienced. I flip my body over. I’m inside some kind of prison cell. There are vertical metal bars with gaps in between blocking me from leaving. Everywhere else is a stone wall. There’s only one other cell across from me. Sitos is lying there. His hands are handcuffed behind his back. There’s a small chain that connects the circular metal part around the hands. I raise my eyebrows.

“Hey, Sitos… Are you awake?” I say quietly. There’s no answer. I gulp. I stand up and move backward toward one of the corners in the back. I stretch out my arms so that the chain between the cuffs is straight. I prepare the instructions for my magic and then activate it. I create a thin stream of fire aimed at the middle of the chain. It’s a little off, so I move my arms to adjust.

I pull my arms apart using all my strength. The chain breaks after five seconds. My heart pounds rapidly, and my palms are sweaty. Sitos still hasn’t moved. I prepare instructions for my magic again and then activate it. A dark-purple portal appears in front of me just in front of the bars of the cell and another one outside of it. The shapes of both of them are three feet squares. I dive through the one in front of me and then appear in the hallway. Sitos still hasn’t moved. I sigh.

There’re voices in the distance I can’t make out. They progressively increase in volume. “Bring that kid over to the location we discussed. We’re going to meet Alios right now.”

Oh, shit! Footsteps resound louder progressively. I turn back around and dive back into the portal. I appear back in my cell. The purple portals are still there.Maybe I should just go back out there and stop them before they come into the room but Sitos might wake up from the noise or they might still see it or maybe I can just get rid of these portals.

Grasping at straws, I gulp as I prepare my Mana. I instruct them to inactivate the magic I casted. I send it out toward both of the purple portals. They disperse into nothing without activating the Mana. I widen my eyes. A door bursts open. My hands are free, and the footsteps increase in volume. I lie on my back, put my hands under them, and then close my eyes. I don’t move a muscle.

Something clicks and then squeaks. A man exclaims, “Hey, get up! Hurry up!”

I inch my eyes open. There’s a guard crouched down next to Sitos. Sitos doesn’t move. The man clicks his tongue. He slumps Sitos over one of his shoulders. I close my eyes. Footsteps resound away, and the door closes. I open my eyes and sigh.That guy…was he one of the four guards who came with us? They knew Sitos’ father’s name…

I prepare the instructions for my Mana like before, with some adjustments. I send it out and then activate it. The same sized portals appear. I dive through the one in front of me and then appear in the hallway. I turn around. The two portals both disperse into nothing after several more seconds pass. I smile and then turn back to the door. I put my ear on the door. There are no apparent sounds other than my breathing.

Should I go outside? What if there’s someone waiting…? I bite my lower lip. I hope everyone else is okay.I can’t get caught while I don’t know where everyone else is. Waiting here’s pointless.

I slowly turn the door knock and then open it. Luckily, there is no creaking sound. I peek my head out. There isn’t anyone in sight. I go out and then close the door quietly. There are several more doors on the left side of the hallway, but it’s a dead end. I inch open the door next to me on the left. There’s no one standing in the hallway. I go in and then close the door behind me.

This room is identical to the one I was just in. Drugo and Hiro are in the cells, apparently still unconscious. I contemplate whether or not I should free them, but I refrain; too many suspicious questions would arise. I go back into the hallway, closing the door behind me.Luna and Marin should be next door…

I repeat the same process and go into the next room, but there’s no one here. I do the same for the remaining doors on the left. I find no one. I go back into the hallway and then check the room furthest down the other direction. It’s the last door in this hallway. I check it and find nothing. I knit my eyebrows.Luna and Marin aren’t here…

I recall what Drugo said on the way here. I shake my head and avoid thinking about the possibilities. I go back into the hallway and follow the only passage out. There are several ramps that lead up. I sneak along the wall toward the opening that leads to another room. There are voices ahead. I scoot up into the corner with my back against the wall.

“These brats had some high-quality weapons. These must be made out of Cobalt,” someone says.

“That girl had an Edgelax bow too. We could sell these for a lot,” another man says.

“You moron, do you remember why we’re doing this in the first place?” a man asks.

“Yeah, yeah… I know. It’s tempting, though.”

“We’ll get part of the cut when Alios takes his son back. Even while divided among everyone, it should support you for a while.”

“I’d hope so. We’re risking a lot for this. Are we really going to turn a blind eye on those two?”

“You’d best ignore it. You don’t want to make an enemy out of them. They’re working withthem. We’re not supposed to talk about this, so don’t bring it up again.”

“What do you think will happen to the other three?”

“They weren’t the targets so they’ll probably release them after they get the money.” I raise my eyebrows. My eyes quiver.

“Give me the keys. I’m going to gather them up, so we can be ready for when that happens. I want this to be over with.” The clattering of the keys resounds. Footsteps approach me. I gulp as I tuck myself further into the corner. I hold my breath. A guard walks through without noticing me.

What should I do? Follow him…or go out and take out those two? The answer is clear. I opt to follow the man heading down the passage. I sneak along the wall after him as he disappears from my view. I peek my head out around the last corner. He skips the room I was in and goes toward Drugo and Hiro’s room. I bite my lower lip.This is bad… If he takes any of those with him, I won’t be able to explain how I escaped…

I raise my eyebrows and then tiptoe behind him. I wrap an arm around his neck and then squeeze it. He makes choking noises and grabs my arm with his. He stops struggling after about five seconds pass. I let him go on the ground. I take the keys from his hands. He doesn’t have anything else in his pockets. I open the door to the room I was in and then drag his body along the ground. I lay him down in Sitos’ cell. I take his weapon and then close the cell door.

I go back into the hallway, closing the door behind me. I sneak into Hiro and Drugo’s room all the way in front of the cells. Luckily, they’re still asleep. I insert keys into Hiro’s cell until one of them successfully unlocks it. I open it very slowly. Every time it creaks, I stop. My heart pounds rapidly as I look between Hiro and Drugo. They don’t show any signs of moving. I leave the cell slightly open and then slide in the sheathed sword. I leave the room after closing the door behind me again. I walk up the passage quietly and go back into the corner.

Several minutes pass. “Hey, he’s taking forever. What’s he doing?”

“Who knows.”

“I’m going to go check it out.”

“Right.” One of them heads this way. Eventually, he passes without noticing me. I sneak along the wall and follow him like before. My heartbeat quickens as his hand reaches for the doorknob of the room I was in. He opens it but closes it afterward. He moves along toward the next room. I sigh. He opens the door to Hiro and Drugo’s room and then goes inside. I follow after him without making a sound. “Hey, what’re you doing in there?”

I close the door quietly and then tiptoe behind him as he walks further into the room. I wrap my arm around his neck when he stops moving. Choking noises resound as he grabs my arm with his. It takes around seven seconds for him to stop moving. I let him down and then check his pockets. I find nothing. Apparently Drugo’s awake. He asks, “Kaister, how’d you get out?”

I insert several different into Drugo’s cell before a clicking noise resounds. I open his cell door and then respond, “I tricked one of the guards to open my cell, and I knocked him out. These cuffs were rusty, so I was able to break it. I got the keys from him.”

“I see. It’s strange how Hiroster’s cell door was open, though.”

I laugh lightly and then say, “Maybe he heard the noise I was making and decided to check it out. He probably forgot to close the door. Let me see if one of these keys will take those off of you.”

I try all the keys, but none of them fit. Hiro’s still asleep on the ground. I wake him up before I explain my knowledge of the situation.

“So the recon mission was a trap?” Drugo asks.

“I think so. It seems like their target was Sitos all along. I don’t know why they took Luna and Marin…” I answer as I drag the second guard into a cell. I take his weapon and then shut the door. I leave the weapon on the ground. “We’ll have to ask the guy upstairs.”

“Let’s run at ’im together.”

“Let’s not. We don’t know if there’re more people in another room nearby. There’s still the issue with that thing they used on us too,” I respond. “I’m gonna head upstairs and go into my spot again. After about a minute, start making some noise to make him come.”

“Got it. I’m the best there is at makin’ noise.” I nod and then head up the passage. The guard is standing against the wall on the right side. My weapons are on the ground in the middle of the room. Boxes are scattered across the room. I rear my head back and then tuck myself into the corner as the full minute passes.

“I don’t wanna! Lemme go!” Hiro exclaims. Footsteps resound closer to me.

“What’s going on down there?”

“What’re ya doin’?! No! It hurts!”

“Hey, stop messing around!” the guard exclaims. Silence follows his words. He clicks his tongue and then goes through the opening. I tiptoe behind him as he heads deeper down into the passage. As he approaches the final hallway, I wrap my arm around his neck.

“Now!” I exclaim. Drugo and Hiro burst out of a nearby door. Drugo turns around and takes his weapon away. Hiro kicks him between the legs. “Don’t make any loud sounds.”

I loosen my grip on him and then ask, “Are there more of your comrades here?”

“N-no… We…we’re the only three people here right now,” he says and then lets out a quiet grunt.

“How many more of you are there in total?”

“I don’t know. More than two dozen.”

“Where’d you take the two girls who were with us?” I tighten my arm around him after several seconds of silence. He taps my arm with his hand. I loosen my grip again.

“Th-they’re probably in the sewers… I don’t know more than that.”

“Who’re you working with? Who arethey?”

“How do you—” I tighten my grip on him again, stopping when he taps my arm. “I can’t tell you. It’s the same as a death sentence.”

I tighten my grip on him until his arm goes limp. We drag him into a cell before continuing upstairs.

“How’d I do?” Hiro asks with a grin. I ignore it as I pick up my weapons. I clip my sheaths back onto my belt.

“Now’s not the time to celebrate. We need to rescue the girls,” I say as I take out a sword. “Turn around. I’ll cut those off of you.”

I put the sharp edge of my blade pointed toward the chain behind Drugo’s back. He pulls forward as I pull back with a cutting motion. The chain is cut almost instantaneously. I’m about to do the same thing to Hiro, when suddenly, footsteps and voices resound rapidly closer. A door bursts open.

“Quick! Inside before they catch up!” a man shouts. Subsequently, four armed men rush into the room. They notice us immediately.

“What the?!”

“Those idiots! They must have diverged off the plan. Get them, but don’t hurt them!” I cock an eyebrow as they run at us.

“Kai, the chains!” Hiro exclaims.

“Too late! Just go distract one of them!”

“Whatever!” Hiro runs in toward one of the men charging at us. That man stops and pulls back his spear, but he doesn’t lunge forward. Hiro tackles him with his head. I block the strike of one of them from the one. Another one is circling around me. I push forward while jumping backward, pointing my right elbow toward the guy in front.

Fireball!" A ball of fire with a diameter of a foot shoots out of my elbow. It hits the man in front and knocks him down.

“Shit!” the man that was circling around me stops and then exclaims. “We’ll have to rough them up a little.”

He tightly grips his sword with both hands. Hiro is pushed onto his back. I grit my teeth.I’ve gotta hurry!

I charge at my opponent who stands still. I slash my right sword at him. He blocks it. I attack him on his vulnerable side with my other weapon. He’s pushing through my right side with brute force. I draw back my other arm to defend. My right arm is thrown back, and then his weapon hits my left. I jump backward while pointing my right elbow toward him.

Fireball!" The usual flaming ball comes out. The man doesn’t move.

Soak!" Water envelops around his weapon. I gulp as he blocks my Fire magic with his sword. Some steam rises from his sword. I look over to the others. There’s a man repeatedly hitting Hiro with the back end of his spear. Drugo’s on the defensive against the other man. I prepare new instructions utilizing Rich Mana instead of Unrefined Mana. The man in front of me ricochets my magic toward the ceiling. It scatters into nothing. I point my right elbow at him again.

I activate my magic immediately without a keyword. The same sized fireball comes out and speeds toward the man. “The same attack won’t work!Soak!"

The man blocks it with his weapon again. I charge forward and then strike his weapon with both of my blades, opposing his force. The water around his weapon rapidly turns into steam. “What?!Soak!"

I put more strength into my attack. His guard breaks, and his eyes widen. ”Water armor!"

A layer of water appears around his body at the last moment before my magic hits him. The force knocks him against the wall. A large quantity of steam rises from his body. He doesn’t move. I charge toward the spear-user attacking Hiro. He blocks my attack. Hiro stands up and then tackles him again. He head butts him in the head with his forehead. A thud resounds. The man lets go of his spear and holds onto his forehead, letting out a cry of pain. His body squirms around.

Hiro stands up, completely unaffected. He says, “Kai, get these off me.”

I twist one side of my lips. I feel sorry for that guy. I learned the hard way too. I cut off the chain between Hiro’s handcuffs. The man on the ground stops moving. My eyes wander around the room as Hiro assists Drugo. There’s a hole in the corner with a ladder attached to the side. The sound of running water is clear here.

I turn back around, the last guy now unconscious. Hiro asks, “Hey Kai, should we throw these guys in the cell too?”

“No, that would take too much time. We need to hurry. Looks like the sewer is in that over back there,” I respond as I point a thumb behind me.

“I found something,” Drugo says as his hands are rummaging through one of the men’s pockets. He pulls out a small key. Something clicks as he inserts it into one of the cuffs. He does the same to the other cuff and then tosses it to Hiro. Hiro unlocks his cuffs.

“Oh! It works for mine too!” Hiro exclaims as he takes off his cuffs. He tosses it over to me and then I do the same.

“Let’s hurry,” I say as I put the key into my pocket. Suddenly, more footsteps resound from outside. A guard appears. He knits his eyebrows.

“Are you the—”

“Yahh!” Hiro exclaims as he rushes toward the guard. He swings his hammer horizontally. It lands on the side of the guard’s torso which flings him into a nearby wall. A loud noise resounds, and his motionless body falls onto the floor. “Don’t worry. I got ’im.”

I shake my head and then sigh. “Let’s go then. Follow me.”

I sheathe my swords and then climb the ladder down into the sewers.

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