Alright, this isn’t so bad.
I’ve trained Vivian the whole afternoon and so far, it’s going pretty well.
I decided to start her training with a puddle.
While it’s true that water is omnipresent in the environment, it’s almost never under its ‘traditional form’. And that’s a problem. Because the less pure it is, the harder it is to control. To begin with, water is almost never pure. Since it dissolves many materials, water is almost never just water. But the more it is mixed with other elements, the more adulterated the mana in it is, making it harder to control.
Vivian has no problem with clean water, but this one puddle is already making things harder for her. Still, she’s going to have to learn to go past that, as there is definitely going to be more than just a little bit of dirt mixed in the water of living beings. It’s not like she has absolutely no control over it though. The puddle is reacting to her mana, and she can somewhat form a waterball with it. Somewhat. To be honest, it’s not exactly a ball. It has an undefined shape, but at least, all the water is clustered together. For a first day, it’s really not so bad.
It’s been a few hours since she started this exercise and I could feel her mana depleting, so I decided to call off our private magic lesson for the day. Exhausted, Vivian collapsed on the ground when I finally signaled her to stop.
“You’re an even harsher teacher than Mrs. Borge,” she said, half-joking.
“Well, you’re not doing too badly,” I grinned.
“But will I really be able to defeat Lucius at this rate?”
“Of course,” I assured her, “I told you, didn’t I? You’ll be ready by the end of the week.”
Although not completely convinced, Vivian gave me a half-smile. I extended my hand for her to take it and helped her up.
“You and I are going to be invincible,” I told her, “the upcoming tournament will be a piece of cake!”
At that moment, I felt her slightly loosening her grasp as she looked at me, her eyes wide-open. Something’s wrong.
“You… don’t want to?”
Thinking about it, I never really asked her if she was willing to join the competition. She agreed to form a team with me, but that was for the school’s group tests only. She never said anything about the tournament. And those are two completely different things. In the tournament, there will be no wooden swords, no dummies, no magical defense to protect us. We will be in a real battle situation, against real people. Blood will flow, students will get hurt, and although extremely rare, participating could even result in death. This is not something I can force her to take part of if she doesn’t want to.
“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Vivian eventually explained herself, “but as we are now, we can’t really join the competition.”
I tilted my head, raising an eyebrow.
“Lynett, have you read the general terms and conditions of participation for the tournament?” She asked as she read my expression.
She means the stuff that is always at least five pages long to basically say nothing? Yeah, I never read that. As Vivian took my silence for a no, she gave me a weak smile.
“As I thought,” she sighed. “You know, the first part of the competition are group trials. You need a team to enter the tournament.”
“I know that. That’s why you and I-”
“A five-person team,” Vivian then cut me off to clarify.
Uh. HUH?! What? Never heard about that! There is a specified number of participants in one team? I did think they would limit it, but… To impose a specified number of participants? I thought we could join with only two people, just like for the school’s group tests. No, actually, thinking about it, it makes sense. Group test are all about performance, but the tournament is about competition. The different teams will face each other, so of course there will be a specified number of people in a team. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair.
Damn. I must admit it, I didn’t think about that.
Vivian was silently chuckling, seemingly amused by my reaction.
“So you’re saying that we need to find three other people to join our team?” I rhetorically asked.
How am I supposed to convince three other students to join us when it took me fourteen years to find Vivian?
“If you absolutely want to enter the competition, then yes,” she responded, still chuckling.
“What about you? Do you even want to join the tournament?”
The young girl shrugged.
“Well, to be honest I don’t particularly care,” she admitted. “I’m only joining because you want to. The Grand Tournament is such a huge scale event, it is normally reserved to the brightest students. It’s not something someone like me would even dream of entering. If it wasn’t for you, this very idea wouldn’t even have crossed my mind.”
So I am dragging her into this competition after all.
Sorry Vivian, I’ll make sure it’s worth it.
It’s alright, I got this.
To make sure that Vivian’s good will won’t go to waste, I promised myself to find three other teammates. However, since I’m already socially awkward enough as it is and since I can’t exactly randomly ask people if they’re willing to join our team, I decided to create flyers. Yesterday, after parting ways with Vivian, I spent the whole evening hanging out those flyers all around the school, after carefully choosing the most strategical spots.
‘Looking for teammates to enter the upcoming tournament. I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow after classes at the entrance of the Eastern Dormitories. My name is Lynett, I have golden eyes.’
That’s all it said, but it should be enough to attract some people. I didn’t specify the gender, the age or even the class required to join -since anyone will do- so there should be a lot of people interested. Moreover, I mentioned my golden eyes. Not only it’ll make it easier to find me, but it should also bait a few more people. It should be fine. I just have to wait for the classes to end.
Anyway, today was a new day, and as promised previously by Mr. Glenn, I am currently attending his class. Surprisingly, it’s going pretty well. I had totally prepared myself to being excluded, but besides the few weird looks I received when Mr. Glenn introduced me, the students don’t treat me badly. They’re simply ignoring me -but not in a bad way. Actually, rather than ignoring me, they just quickly forgot about me and returned their focus to Mr Glenn. Completely different from yesterday.
Practical classes were different from theoretical classes. The students weren’t dispatched in the different classes according to their age, but according to their level. However, since with age comes experience, there was still a correlation between those two. The beginner classes were mostly made up of children and pre-teens while the intermediate classes were composed mainly of teenagers. In this class, the students were all about my brother’s age. Although they technically still fall under the ‘teenager’ category, the conscientiousness on their face made them look more mature, almost like young adults. I was definitely the youngest here.
As I kept inspecting my classmates, impressed by their genuine diligence, a single thought crossed my mind, and a grin spread on my face.
‘Lucius definitely doesn’t have his place here.’
Or at least not yet. He might be the best of his class, I can tell with one glance the difference of level. He’s definitely not fit to be here, not for the next couple of months, maybe even years. It’s no wonder Mr. Glenn wasn’t impressed by him yesterday. I could actually have some fun, here.
“You guys know what day today is, right?” Mr. Glenn announced all smiles, his arms crossed in front of him.
The students, however, didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm, as a couple of them sighed.
Mr. Glenn raised his arm.
“Go prepare yourself,” he instructed.
Following the gesture of his hand, I noticed he was showing a bunch of equipment stacked together on the ground. Leather armors, gloves, helmets, shields and even some wooden swords.
As I frowned in confusion, the other students immediately headed toward the equipment stack. Most of them put on armors and helmets, while others simply took a shield. But all picked up a weapon.
What the hell are they doing? We are mages, this is clearly close combat equipment.
Completely disoriented, I gave a quick glance at Mr. Glenn. He was displaying a broad smile in contrast to his students, devoid of any motivation.
Unsure of what was going on, I imitated my classmates. Maybe he will explain afterwards? The shield was too heavy for me so I simply put on some leather armor and picked up a wooden dagger.
As I returned to my place, I heard a couple of students sighing in frustration.
“I hate tuesdays…”
“Alright, is everyone ready?” Mr. Glenn inquired in a loud voice.
At that moment, another class arrived. Accompanied by a female teacher in her thirties, the students were all holding a bow and were all wearing a quiver. Archers.
“Mrs. Ahl,” our teacher exclaimed as he spotted his colleague, “we were waiting for you!”
“Mr. Glenn,” the female teacher greeted. “I hope we’re not too late.”
“Absolutely not, they just finished preparing themselves.”
While the two teachers seemed quite friendly with each other, it didn’t seem to be the case for their students. The newcomers were displaying wide grins, eying us in some kind of vicious way, while the students from my class simply sighed in resignation.
“Alright guys, take position!” Mr. Glenn instructed once he had finished his conversation. “We’ll begin.”
The students all took a stance.
“Ready yourselves,” Mrs. Ahl ordered her class in her turn, “draw!”
Following her command, Mrs. Ahl’s students all picked up an arrow from the leather quiver hanging from their shoulder and nocked it. They pulled the string and drew their bow backward, aiming at-
W-Wait, wait, wait! What do they think they’re doing right now? Aren’t they aiming at us?!
As I felt myself growing restless, I tried to survey my surroundings. None of my classmates were panicking -just me. In fact, it seemed like they were all used to this, ready to pounce.
“On the count of three,” Mr. Glenn’s voice resonated in my head, “one!”
Wait, wait, wait! Is he being serious?
For real?! He’s going to let them shoot at us?
“Run to the woods,” I suddenly heard the boy next to me mutter, as he read the confusion on my face.
The countdown reaching zero, a swarm of students erupted in a frantic race as all started to run in the same direction, trying to take shelter in the woods. Following the stranger’s advice, I imitated my classmates. There was no need for us to turn around, we could all tell the shower of arrows was imminent. We could hear the piercing twang of the strings and the arrows whistling in the air.
“And don’t forget!” Mr. Glenn shouted, “you are not allowed to use magic!”
What the hell is he talking about?!
As the first rush of arrows arrived, those who had shields raised them above their head as the others did their best to avoid the rainfall of projectiles. They weren’t real, but it still looked like it’d hurt like hell to get hit by them. For a moment I regretted putting down that shield, then, I realized I could take advantage of my height to sneak into the crowd and use my classmates as protection. Desperate times call for desperate measures!
Oh, shut up [World System]. Not now.
Surprisingly enough, I didn’t fall behind. Maybe it’s because as fellow mages, my peers shared the same crappy endurance as me? Or maybe they were simply just overequiped. In any cases, we all eventually managed to reach the woods.
Taking advantage of the trees’ protection, we stopped to catch our breath.
“F***… Those goddamn archers…”
“They’re going to regret that…!”
“I f****** hate Tuesdays…”
Trying to make sense of what just happened, I let myself fall on the ground.
“What the hell was that?” I mumbled to myself.
Is this like a normal occurrence in advanced classes?
“Oh, you survived!”
Turning in the direction of the voice who just spoke up, I noticed the same boy who warned me to take shelter in the woods just a few moments ago.
“You’re okay?” he asked.
I looked up at him, still disoriented.
“What was that?” I repeated with a louder voice this time.
The boy sat at my side, displaying a forced smile.
“The Tuesday exercise. You’ll get used to it.”
My mouth dropped.
“You do this every tuesday?!”
“Every tuesday,” he sighed, “Mr. Glenn’s idea.”
“But… Why?! You are mages!”
The boy’s lips curled into a wry smile as he let out a sarcastic snort.
“It’s exactly because we are mages,” he explained, his voice betraying his resignation, “since we’re vulnerable to physical attacks, Mr. Glenn had this idea to make us train with other classes once or twice every week, to teach us how to dodge and how to defend ourselves. That’s also why he wouldn’t allow us to use magic.”
“The other classes are fine with it?!”
“You kidding?” An ironic grin spread on his face. “They wouldn’t miss the occasion to practice with living and moving targets.”
That goddamn Mustache!
“Don’t worry, we’ll get back at them tomorrow,” the boy tried to cheer me up.
I tilted my head.
“Yeah, we’ll switch roles tomorrow,” he explained as a sadistic smile crept onto his face, “you just need to make sure to survive until then.”
I let out a loud sigh, already discouraged.
“Well, as long as I stay here, it shouldn’t be too complicated, right?”
The boy looked at me with a blank expression for a few seconds before a smile played on his lips.
“I really suggest you not to,” he then advised, “they’re merely giving us a short break. In a couple of minutes, they’ll go after us.”
… You got to be kidding me.
“And that’s not even the worst part!” he continued, his smile not subsiding. He was clearly enjoying my reactions.
The boy marked a dramatic pause.
“Mr. Jorren’s class will join too!”
I slightly drew my head backwards, my eyes squinted, full of suspicion.
“Mr. Jorren’s class?” I repeated.
His grin grew wider.
“The warriors’ class!”
Now this is just great. Looking down at the dagger in my hand, I suddenly understood the need for a weapon. That crazy teacher wants us to defend ourselves against actual warriors. And without magic. This is madness. I get that he doesn’t want us to rely entirely on magic, but there is no way a mage would stand a chance against a warrior in close combat.
This is not good. Without magic, I’m pretty much useless. Should I cheat and use magic after all?
“Don’t,” the boy recommended as he probably guessed my intention, “he’ll know immediately.”
Yeah, I guess he would.
Mustache, I hate you.
I’ve never been this exhausted in my life before. And when I say my life, I mean both my lives.
After four hours, the exercise finally ended. To summarize it, I ran, I hid, I panicked. That’s about it. I did end up cheating though. I tried to play by the rules, but ultimately, I realized my current physical capacities alone were far from enough to escape warriors, or even archers. So, since I couldn’t use magic without taking the risk of being immediately found out, I used something that didn’t need any mana. My administrator [Skills]. Although not an unbreakable defense, it did allow me to shake off my pursuers more than once.
I can’t believe this is legal to torture students like that… Those archers and warriors were clearly having fun hunting us down. Now the only thing I want is to give them a taste of their own medicine. That goddamn teacher lost my respect. From now on, it’s no longer Mr. Glenn. I’ll call him Mustache, just like everyone else. Like, for real Mustache. A witch hunt -both literally and figuratively speaking- is definitely not the best way to raise one’s physical capabilities!
… Or maybe it is. I have to admit my stats rose faster in four hours than these past few years. That was the only benefit from this torture. I gained three points in agility and two in stamina. In four hours. Then again, my physical stats are really low to begin with, making them easy to rise. Only now I realize what kind of sluggish life I lead until now.
Anyway, the time of deliverance was finally here. The hellish exercise over, I waited for Vivian at the refectory for the lunch break. The torture has ended, let’s just forget about it.
“So, how was your class?” Vivian asked, her eyes sparkling, full of expectations, as she sat at my side.
Well, how should I say this?
This is not good. That’s not how it was supposed to be.
I told Vivian that I wouldn’t be able to train her today and asked her to simply continue the same exercise from yesterday. So after we finished our meal, she left to practice her magic while I headed to the Eastern Dormitories as planned. But this is not going well.
I definitely mentioned the time and the location on the flyers, I even mentioned my appearance. It shouldn’t be hard to find me, so why isn’t anyone coming? It’s not like I’m hardly noticeable! I’ve been here for at least two hours, and although I did receive a couple of glances from passersby, no one stopped so far. You can’t possibly be saying that, out of ten thousand students, there isn’t a single soul interested in joining the tournament, right? So what’s the problem? Me? Am I too impatient? Maybe I am, it’s only been two hours after all.
This is definitely not going well.
I waited a couple more hours, and I could now see the sun slowly sinking below the horizon. The afternoon was reaching its end, leaving the door open for evening, and there was still no one. I sighed, realizing the harsh reality. No one’s coming. As I stretched my body, getting ready to leave, I noticed Vivian approaching from afar.
“So, how was your training?” I asked once she got closer.
Judging by her beaming face, it probably went well.
“Great! I can freely control it now!” she proudly announced.
If that’s true, then she really is progressing fast. There is no doubt that her [Skill] is helping her, but her enthusiasm also plays a role in her rapid growth. I guess she is what you would call a natural.
“I wish I could show you, but I ran out of mana,” she admitted, silently chuckling at her own clumsiness.
Yeah, I can definitely tell she gave it her all. On the other hand, on my side…
“What about you?” Vivian eventually asked. “Any luck?”
I told her beforehand the reason why I wouldn’t mentor her today, but now it feels stupid. Not only did I miss her training but it was all for nothing.
“You’re leaving?” the young girl inquired.
“Well, no one’s coming so there is no point in waiting any more than that,” I explained indifferently, trying not to show my disappointment.
Vivian tilted her head to the side, her eyes rising to the sky, seemingly thinking about something.
“You know,” she spoke after a while, “I saw a guy pacing on my way here. He had one of your flyers in his hands so he was probably interested. Maybe he’s too shy to come?”
“Really?!” I exclaimed, my voice betraying my excitement. “Where?”
“Just around the corner.”
Without wasting any more seconds, I grabbed Vivian’s hand to drag her to the spot she just designated. We can’t miss this chance. Anyone will do, we need teammates. Reaching the said-corner, I finally spotted the boy who was still pacing. I was seeing him from behind so I couldn’t see his face, but judging by his height, he should be about our age. Perfect.
“Are you interested in joining our team?!”
My sudden call caused the boy to flinch in surprise. He turned around, allowing me to take a look at his face, and as our eyes met, I tilted my head to the side.
“…Frost?” I frowned.
“W-What?” The boy tried to keep his composure.
“What are you doing here?” I started as my eyes fell upon the paper he was holding in his hands. Remembering the reason I came here, my eyes squinted even more. “You want to join our team?”
“No!” He immediately denied, hiding the flyer behind his back. “I mean… Maybe, I don’t know.”
As I gave him a judgmental stare, he became even more flustered.
“What! Whose fault do you think it is? It’s not like I wanted to come, but I didn’t have a choice! I had a team! I was going to participate! But ever since that incident with you happened, I was cast aside and no one else would accept me, and, and…”
Watching him desperately trying to justify himself was pretty amusing, I must admit it. But let’s not push it too far.
“Well, I don’t mind you joining, you know?”
The boy froze at my words as he silently looked at me for a few seconds. Eventually, he understood that I wasn’t joking.
“Is that so,” he mumbled, his ears slightly flushing in embarrassment.
It’s not what I expected, but at least we have another person in our team now.
“What, you guys already know each other?” Vivian asked, clearly confused.
I turned my attention on her.
“Yeah, something like that,” I responded, “this is Frost. I met him the day I arrived here.”
I omitted to mention the circumstances of our meeting since it was embarrassing for both of us.
“I’m Frost,” the boy introduced himself to Vivian, extending his arm in front of him. “I’m a mage, I specialize in summoning magic.”
“Oh, nice to meet you,” Vivian shook his hand, “my name is Vivian, I’m also a mage. I specialize in water magic.”
Frost’s expression darkened.
“Are you okay?” Vivian asked, full of concern.
“You’re a mage?” he inquired.
The young girl nodded.
Frost frowned at her. He directed his gaze toward me, seemingly expecting something, then toward her, and toward me again.
“She’s a mage,” he muttered, clearly puzzled.
“Yes, that’s what she said,” I emphasized, raising an eyebrow.
“You’re a mage,” the boy added.
“And I’m a mage!”
I crossed my arms in front of me, not understanding his point.
“So? Is that a problem?”
“Is that a problem? Is that a problem, she says!” the boy suddenly exploded. “We can’t win with this kind of team! I’m out!”
“W-W-Wait! What are you talking about?” I panicked. It was already hard enough to find a single teammate, we can’t afford to lose him. “Why not?”
“Are you listening? She’s a mage, you’re a mage, I’m a mage,” Frost repeated, the tone of his voice growing impatient. “Mages are the most important assets of a team, which is why they are always protected by their team members. But if we’re all mages, who’s going to protect us?! We’ll all be dead before casting the first incantation!”
I… didn’t think about that. Out of desperation, I was willing to recruit anyone but he has a point, doesn’t he? It might be a problem. We need to consider the balance of our team. I can handle myself since I can use [Voiceless Incantation], but I am certainly not planning on disclosing that, and I need to think about Vivian and Frost.
“Well, if we recruit two close-range combatants, it should be fine, right?” I suggested.
But Frost didn’t seem convinced as he placed a hand on his face.
“Let’s suppose that we do manage to recruit two close-range combatants,” he considered, “they’ll keep busy two members of the opposing team. But what about the remaining three? In a five-person team, there is almost always one healer and one ranged fighter. That leaves us with one melee fighter, still.”
Listening to Frost’s rational explanation, Vivian nodded in approval while I could feel the headache coming. Do we really have to talk about strategy now? The tournament is in five months.
“You’re a summoner, right?” Vivian asked, seemingly thinking about something. “Can’t your familiar be a tank?”
Frost widened his eyes at the young girl’s suggestion before bringing a hand to his chin, carefully considering it.
“It’s risky, but I guess that could work,” he admitted after a few seconds.
Vivian’s expression brightened at his approval.
“So we just need to find two close-range fighters, right?” I summarized. “It shouldn’t be so difficult.”
Although I say that, I’m not entirely confident in this. But for now at least, Frost is one of us. As I prepared myself to lead the way to the refectory, I felt the boy’s hand holding me back.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“The refectory,” I responded, “I was thinking of going before it’s crowded.”
“What about the recruitment?”
I blinked at him several times before letting out a small sigh.
“You know, I waited the whole afternoon,” I explained, “if anyone was interested, they would have come by now.”
“I think we should still wait a little bit more,” Frost insisted, “someone might come last minute.”
I really didn’t have the courage to do so, especially after wasting an entire afternoon like that. But I didn’t want Frost to threaten to leave either. He seemed especially persistent about it. However, before I had the chance to make a choice, I heard a little voice calling me out.
“Hello? Are you Lynett?”
Wait, for real?
Turning my head in the direction of the voice, I saw a small boy looking at me with beaming eyes. Although he was young, twelve years old at most, he was about the same height as me. Looking down, I immediately noticed one of my flyers in his hands. A smirk spread on my face.
“You’re hired!” I enthusiastically exclaimed as I grabbed both his hands.
“Huh? Really?” the boy exulted in delight.
“Wait, what?!” Frost shouted, bewildered. Vivian didn’t say a single word but I could see on her face that she was as surprised as him. “Hold on a second Lynett, what are you talking about?”
I pointed the paper in the boy’s hands.
“He obviously wants to join our team.”
“That’s not what I mean!” Frost exasperated. “That’s a child!”
“Yes, but he’s also a beastman!” I pointed out.
That’s right. Beside his small size, the boy’s most particular features were the little round ears sprouting out his head and the tail swaying on his back. He was a beastman without a doubt. But not any kind of beastman. The black stripes on his orange tail were speaking for themselves. He belongs to the tigerkin.
“You’re the one who wanted a close-range fighter,” I told Frost, a confident grin on my face, “You’ve seen his tail, right? He’s a tiger. What better close-range fighter than one of the most powerful sub-races of demi-humans?”
Frost narrowed his eyes, carefully inspecting the demi-human boy.
“But he’s a child…” he repeated, clearly reluctant.
“You shouldn’t underestimate him because of his age,” I furrowed my brows as I tried to reason with him, “I once saw a demi-human boy beat up a full-grown adult, and a trained bodyguard on top on that, within mere seconds!”
Frost was not fully convinced. I could still read the hesitation on his face.
“He’s a tiger, Frost, a tiger!” I emphasized. “A super predator! A master hunter! A fearless combatant!”
“Alright, alright!” he finally gave in as he let out a long sigh. “I get it! I hope you’re right.”
A broad smile on my face, I faced the demi-human boy.
“Welcome to the team!” I declared. “As you already know, I’m Lynett. Nice to meet you!”
“Welcome!” Vivian congratulated him in turn. “I’m Vivian!”
The boy happily returned our smiles.
“I’ll do my best!” he beamed. “I’m Jalone!”
Frost was the last one to introduce himself.
“I’m Frost,” he said, “I’m sorry to ask this of someone younger than me but… We’ll be counting on you to protect us. I’ve heard that the tigerkin make terrific melee fighters.”
Jalone tilted his head to the side as he raised a single eyebrow.
“You want me to be a melee fighter?”
“Well, we’re all mages so…”
The demi-human boy blinked a couple of times at us before displaying a large smile.
“But I’m a mage as well?”
Huh? Say what?
“I’m a mage!” he repeated as he didn’t get an answer.
A brief and awkward silence settled in as we all exchanged meaningful glances.
“Dude,” Frost spoke up, “can I quit, now?”
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