The Selection

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Chapter 38 - Post Academy - Loss

I run toward Hiro’s body. The monster shoots four small black needle-like spikes at me from its limbs. I stop.

“Watch out!” Drugo exclaims as he moves in front of me, his shield up. Loud clangs resound on Drugo’s shield. He turns 90-degrees to his side and then topples over on me. “Don’t try blocking those projectiles!”

Drugo stands up and continues, “Those went through my shield. I would’ve been in trouble if I didn’t move outta the way.”

“Run! That monster is too dangerous!” Sitos exclaims. I grit my teeth and stand up.

“How can you say that, Sitos?!” Luna shouts. “We can’t abandon Hiro!”

“What do you suggest? Fight that monster and die trying? Hiro is a goner.” The monster is gliding toward the others.

“It’s coming your way!” I warn and run toward the others. Drugo follows. Marin shoots several arrows into the air. “Let’s run for now!”

“Kai, you too?” Luna asks. Balls of fire appear around Luna that shoot toward the sky.

“We can’t help Hiro while that thing hunts us! We need to come back for him after we lose it!” I explain. Suddenly, strong winds blow between us and the others. I put a hand over my eyes. A tornado forms between us. Large cuts appear on the trees around us and smaller cuts on my armor. I jump back. “We’ll meet back at the caravan! Go!”

Luna and the others run away. The tornado moves toward them. The monster is gliding above it. I point my right palm toward it and shout, ”Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!”

Several balls of fire come out of my palm and fly toward the monster.

“Kaister, we should get going too!” Drugo exclaims as he runs toward a direction.

“You go ahead. I’m gonna distract this thing while you guys escape.”

He stops running and answers, “You can’t! It’s too strong! It pierced my Cobalt shield like butter!”

“Don’t worry, I have a plan! Trust me.”

Drugo’s closed lips quiver for a second. “Alright. Be careful!”

He resumes running away. The tornado is still running its course cutting through everything in its path. Some trees are shredded through completely and topple over. The Albino Flying Squirrel isn’t flying over the tornado anymore. I knit my eyebrows for a moment. I hear something behind me. I raise my eyebrows and turn around. The monster’s gliding toward me near ground level. Immediately, I jump to the side. A strong wind blows against me as it zooms past me. My heart pounds rapidly.

I stand back up. The monster is nowhere to be found. I unsheathe both of my swords while looking around. I gulp. Black spikes fly toward me from the right. Instinctively, I move my blades in front of me to block them. I grit my teeth and jump out of harm’s way. A strong wind resounds behind me. I turn around, finding the monster gliding toward me near ground level again. I jump to the side and then swing a sword down toward the monster as it glides by. My arm is thrown back before my blade slices through it. I fall backward. I stand back up.

The tornado from earlier is gone. A wide path of broken trees is left behind. I grit my teeth and run away. There’s one thing left to try…

I turn my head around me. I locate the monster flying diagonally above me at the top of the trees. I gather my Mana into my left hand and prepare instructions. I sheathe both of my weapons. Multiple loud growls resound near me. Three Brown Hyenas sprint toward me from the side. I stop and point my left palm toward them. ”Fire bolt! Fire bolt! Fire bolt!”

Fire in the shape of a fat arrow appears one at a time out of my left palm. They burst into flames in a forward direction as they hit each of the Brown Hyenas. The fiery gasses surround them and burn them for two seconds. Sizzling black charcoal is left behind. Suddenly, strong winds stir near me. I jump back as the nearby trees are cut. A tornado forms again. I hastily run out of the straight path it heads toward.

Suddenly, it changes direction toward me again. I widen my eyes. What?!

I run away from its path again. It changes direction and zooms in on me. I knit my eyebrows. How’s that possible?!

The monster is no longer above the tornado. I look in front of me. It’s gliding toward me far in the distance directly in front of me. It’s fast. I keep the same pace while putting my left palm in front of me. ”Fire bolt!”

Flames in the shape of a fat arrow shoot out of my left palm while the monster shoots two black needles toward me from its upper two paws. They collide with my magic and stops for a brief moment. My magic continues forward while the needles pierce through my magic. I slide forward before it hits me. My magic collides and bursts into flames on the monster. The fire envelops it for a moment before the flames disappear.

I stand up and continue to run. It feels like the tornado is traveling faster as the sounds of trees being cut grow louder. I run past a Horned Rabbit munching on a plant. Hiro’s in view in front of me. Shit! I didn’t notice I ran a full circle…

I change directions, so the tornado doesn’t collide with him. For some reason, the sounds behind me aren’t as close by. I raise my eyebrows and turn around. The tornado is heading toward Hiro while the monster glides toward me. I grit my teeth. Shit! There’s no time!

I raise my eyebrows. Oh, wait…

I prepare instructions for my Mana while continuing to run farther away and then release it. I gulp as my Mana travels to its destinations. The monster closes the gap between us quickly.

Eat this! I just run past one of the destinations for my Mana and then shout, ”Open!”

A purple portal appears between the monster and me. I go through it from my side and then appear next to Hiro. The sound of the turbulent tornado stops. ”Close!”

I turn around and find a path of destruction that the tornado ran through. The monster lies on the ground not that far ahead. I gulp as I walk toward it. A growing pool of blood forms around its main body. All of its limbs have been cut off and are scattered around. It shows no signs of moving. I sigh, turn around, and walk toward Hiro who is lying on his back.

There are several small holes around Hiro’s head on top of a small pool of blood. His eyes are open. My eyes tear up a little. “Hiro, you’re playing a joke on us, aren’t you?”

My heart pounds as I crouch down next to him. I put my finger on his neck to check his pulse despite that I know the truth. Tears flow out of my eyes before I know it. I clench my fists and my teeth. “Hiro…this can’t be real…”

I rest my arms on top of his armor and bury my head in. I bawl my eyes out while all my memories of Hiro flash by in my head. I don’t know how much time passes before I lift up my head. I wipe off the long piece of snot that’s dripping down my nostrils. I sniff up the remaining snot. That’s right… I need to get back to the caravan…

I close his eyes, slip my hands under him, and then stand up holding him in my arms. Don’t worry. You’ll be home soon…

I start walking the way back to the caravan. I knit my eyebrows. Are my eyes playing tricks on me…?

I turn toward where the monster should be. I widen my eyes. My heart skips a beat as a cold shiver goes down my spine. The main body is gone, but its limbs are still on the ground. I look above me and then all around me. There’s nothing. I gulp, slowly taking steps backward. My heart feels like it bursts when a crackle resounds behind me. I turn around.

Sitos is standing there. I sigh and then say, “Oh, it’s just you… Where’re the others?”

He smiles and then says, “They are all safe at the caravan. I ran back in when Drugo told me what you did. Kai, I am glad you are okay. I do not know what I would have done if something happened to you… What happened to the Albino Flying Squirrel? Did you lose it?”

“Well…” He walks toward me, turning his head toward the limbs and blood left by the monster. His eyes turn back to me.

“You killed it? What happened?”

“Well…not exactly…” I contemplate on spilling the beans, but I refrain. “It suicided. I got it to run into its own tornado.”

“I find that hard to believe…” he says with a penetrating glare. He relaxes his facial expressions. “Well, you are still alive, so it must be true. How is Hiro?”

I close my eyes and shake my head. “Damn. Well, let us rejoin with the others.”

“Yeah…” I mutter. We make our way back to the caravan. I rest Hiro’s body on the floor inside the caravan. I close my eyes in silence as everyone else mourns for Hiro. I keep calm at first, but I cry again as everyone’s cries resound.

“This is all your fault, Kai. Are you not ashamed?" Sitos asks. I keep my eyes closed and tilt my head down, my hands on the floor. I clench my fists and teeth.

Someone sniffs loudly. Luna exclaims, “Sitos, how can you say such a thing at a time like this?!”

“But it is true, is it not? If Kai did not say what he did moments before he died… He might have lived. You are all crying that he died…but it was Kai’s fault to begin with.”

“He’s right, Luna… It’s all my fault…” I say, feeling my eyes burn up with tears again. I can’t control myself anymore. I bawl. A slap resounds.

“I thought you were Hiro’s friend…but you haven’t shed a tear.”

“Crying is not going to make anything better.” Someone’s footsteps resound closer to me. I smell Luna’s scent in front of me. I open my eyes and look up, immediately finding Luna wrapping her arms around me.

“No one blames you, Kai… I don’t blame you…” she says with a shaky voice. It sounds like she’s barely holding in her tears. I embrace her back and bury my head in her shoulders. I return to bawling my eyes out. Some time passes.

I’m sitting against the wall, Luna next to me. The others are sitting against the opposing wall while Sitos is standing against the wall between us. I ask, “What’re we gonna do with his body?”

“We have to bury him…” Luna says.

“Do you think he’ll be happy if he was buried at the orphanage Drugo?” I ask.

“I think Hiro would be really happy if we buried him at the Academy…” Marin says. I smile.

“Yeah… I think you’re right,” I respond.

“That’s a great idea, Marin!” Luna exclaims.

“I think that would be for the best. I’ll let everyone from the orphanage know…” Drugo says.

“What do you think, Sitos?” I ask and then look up at him. He has a hand over his face covering his eyes. Tears flow through his hand. I look down at the floor, my eyes shaking. Luna puts her hand over mine and smiles. I smile too and hold back the tears.

“Well, I’ll go to the front and drive us back. We’ll stop by the Adventurer’s Hub to handle our business there and then head to the Academy,” Drugo says as he stands up. He starts walking toward the exit.

“Wait,” I say. “Can you stop by Emdos’ place first? I wanna tell him what happened…”

“I’m going to stop by the Academy ahead of everyone else to inform Teacher Moria and the others of what happened. Getting off at Trade District will be fine for me,” Marin says.

“Alright. When you get off, come to the front, so I know,” Drugo says and then exits. He heads toward the front.

“I’m going to start skinning the monsters we caught,” Marin says.

“I’ll help too!” Luna exclaims. The warmth of her hand leaves mine as she stands up and then walks over to Marin.

I guess it’s naptime again… I close my eyes and then soon fall asleep.

I open my eyes as someone puts a hand on my head. Luna says, “Kai.”

The caravan isn’t moving anymore. Familiar noises surround us outside the caravan. I look up and yawn. She continues, “This is your stop.”

“Oh,” I interject as I stand up. “I guess I’ll see ya guys at the Academy later.”

“Yeah,” Luna says with a smile.

“Are you sure you want to visit Emdos at a time like this?” Sitos asks. “You should come with us to the Adventurer’s Hub.”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks. I’ll catch you guys later,” I say and then open the door to the outside. As I’m closing the door, I find Sitos smiling in the corner. I walk to the front. “Well, I’m off. I’ll see ya at the Academy, Drugo.”

“Yup. Take your time with Emdos, Kaister. We’ll wait for you before we bury him,” Drugo says. He signals the horses to move again afterward. I walk to the door of Emdos’ place. I knock on it several times. Half a minute passes with no response. I knock again but louder this time.

“Hey, Emdos! It’s me, Kai!” Another thirty seconds pass with no response. I try turning the doorknob, finding that it’s unlocked. I open the door, go inside, and then close the door behind me. “Hey, Emdos! Are you here?”

There’s no response. I look around the entire place. He’s not here. I sigh. Did he go shopping or something? Since the door’s unlocked, he must be coming back soon.

I go to my room and then lay down on the bed. I’ll rest my eyes a little longer before Emdos comes back.

I close my eyes and smile. I think about the night before I went to the Academy for the first time and then the days after that. I lose track of how much time passes. Emdos sure is late…

Popping noises resound outside. My bed shakes a little. I open my eyes. What’s that noise?

Suddenly, a loud explosion resounds outside. I sit up immediately, my heart pounding. I widen my eyes. What the hell was that?!

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