Chapter 118 Arrival (Part 2)
Whether it was his comprehension to be able to utilize mana in such a way or his specific comprehension over fire or lightning. It was already too much. If she took into consideration the courage and calm necessary to survive in Bull-Wind Forest on his own with no prospect of a destination since he’d been lost with no idea whether there was anyone else left alive anywhere, Lydia only knew that it was something she wouldn’t have been able to do herself.
Lydia chose the wiser course of action and said nothing. She didn’t think she could find words soothing enough to comfort. Words powerful enough to inspire, words adequate enough to make sense of any of the things that happened to anyone, much less the things that happened to Daichi. Therefore, she chose silence and an understanding expression as she tried to convey her feelings without words – all of which was lost on Daichi.
After giving it a bit and not hearing anything from Lydia he actually began to wonder whether she was doubting his story. He didn’t get to dwell on that for very long as he finally began to notice the looks he was receiving from some of the people who were walking within the group. He hadn’t put much stock in those glances before but now he was curious enough to want to talk to these people himself. Things were mainly settled regarding his background, and there was nothing left he would be willing to say so it was about time to get some real information and not the tid bits he’d gotten here and there.
They had already traveled most of the day and seeing the wary looks on most of their faces, Crimson decided they would stop for the night. They had been called back, but knew that more than anything it was a signal to retreat and withdraw from the forest.
Crimson had actually been wondering himself why such a drastic location had been chosen for the exam this year. He’d been one of the examiners in the past and knew first hand what types of experiences the participants should expect. This year’s exam had far surpassed anything any of the other participants had gone through in the past. Even the few times the exam had been held in Bull-Wind Forest in the past, it had only taken place in the outer regions of the forest and none of the participants had used any scrolls to enter the deeper regions. Crimson had been wondering why this year was different but had kept his mouth shut. Now after personally witnessing some of the events that had transpired within the forest his mind was far from at ease and he was disgruntled at whether the higher ups knew something like this would happen.
After signaling for the others to rest Crimson began doing recon to secure their position. They were on fairly flat land and had a 360 view of their surroundings, but this only provided an illusion of safety. Crimson had to once again stand guard but already knew that Lydia would relieve him of his shift after she got some rest first.
While Crimson was speaking to the others about taking a rest and what time they would set off in the morning Lydia whispered into Daichi’s ears one final bit of information “Your arrival is going to stir up quite a situation. Should anyone ask, you’re from another group and they have all perished. You are a participant in the exam. I will let you know who else is privy to the true story. You may tell others that you have only been to Lumea to take the exam and that your village is outside of Lumea. It is not uncommon for their to be a few villages here or there within the scope of sight of Lumea. Although it isn’t safe, as long as the Lumea barrier is within reach it is as safe as it gets when living within Lumea is not an option.”
Crimson seemed to be done speaking at the same time Lydia finished her last piece of information and with a calm smile from Lydia she went on her way as Daichi was finally given a moment of reprieve. It was only a few minutes before Damien was the first to come over and introduce himself.
“My name is Damien Knight.” He said approaching Daichi.
“Daichi” one word was all he spoke but in his mind Daichi was already scolding himself for not saying more.
‘Damn it! How come I’ve been dying for a chance to speak with someone. Anyone. Now here I am surrounded by people basically and I can’t make myself say more?’
Damien had to physically stop himself from scowling after Daichi’s introduction. He had already recovered from the earlier events. Most of it had been resolved thanks to his insight into fire which he knew would be his greatest stepping stone towards threading a higher path and gaining more reputation for himself within Lumea. He had been paying attention to Lydia and Crimson since they’d arrived and after getting over the grief of his injuries to his body and dignity he’d realized that instead of being focused on himself and Haeru they were focused on Daichi.
Once Damien had come to his senses he’d expected some sort of accolades for his heroism. Instead only Haeru had been given some attention. He’d wanted to tear Haeru’s eyes out for taking the attention away from his moment but had enough modesty in his bones to acknowledge that Haeru was indeed worthy of stealing some limelight.
Damien had wondered what kind of technique he’d used but whatever it was had done what he’d struggled so hard to do so seamlessly. Most shocking was not how strong Haeru was. He’d clearly been hiding his strength very deeply, but rather that both instructors had aimed their attention towards the stranger that had joined their group shortly afterwards. Even more so how much attention the instructor Lydia had been speaking with the other boy the entire length of their walk until now.
Regardless of how arrogant Damien was he could recognize value from a mile away. He was arrogant to those he thought beneath him but valued anyone that could or would increase his own value in a heartbeat. From his perspective whoever this newcomer was, he had a lot of value to Professor Lydia.
“Do you mind if I ask why you joined our group only now?” Damien asked. He’d debated on how to broach the subject, any subject but after Daichi’s one word introduction an awkward silence had settled over them. Damien decided not to beat around the bush if Daichi was going to be simple then he’d be direct.
“My group is dead. I wandered and here I am.” Daichi said while once again immediately chastising himself in his head. ‘Ugh! Why can’t I say more!? I think I came off as rude too. Maybe I didn’t… Maybe I’m just overthinking things.’
Damien’s left eye twitched as Daichi spoke and almost immediately afterwards made an annoyed expression which Damien assumed was aimed at him. He couldn’t discern whether the guy in front of him was rude, whether he was reading into things too much or perhaps whether it was simply the gravity of the scenario ‘Daichi’ had just lived through.
Not moments before thinking of what he was going to say Haeru walked over and introduced himself cutting off Damien before he had a chance to speak. “I saw you making friends and figured I’d come say –Hello. I’m Haeru and I’m pretty glad to still be alive after the last few days we’ve had.”
Daichi took notice of Haeru and gave him a half smile. “You’re the one who caused that strange mana fluctuation right?”
Haeru’s eyes widened and Damien looked at Daichi in confusion before realizing he must have been talking about the attack that Haeru used before. Haeru stayed quiet without responding as he gazed at Daichi in a complicated way. Damien didn’t read too much into it and answered for him
“That’s him. Even I was impressed by that attack. It would have been better if he’d shown up a bit earlier though. Although I didn’t say it before, I thank you on behalf of everyone that was under the attacks of those creatures. Even I was getting drawn into a corner before you arrived”
Daichi nearly laughed at that but held himself back as he wondered whether Damien was making a joke or not but deciding that he was starting to like him. He missed humor, and clearly the guy in front of him made up for his lack of personal power by using humor to make up for it with personality.
“It was quite an impressive attack. I caught the end of it when I arrived.”
Damien nodded as well. Although he didn’t like that he was overshadowed by someone else there wasn’t much else to be said. What Haeru had done was nothing short of impressive.
Haeru was still looking at Daichi with a complicated look but finally seemed to snap out of it. Forcing a light smile “It was nothing. Although it looked very impressive it’s actually not a practical attack. It worked well in that scenario and I’m glad it was useful but it’s far from being something I can be proud of.”
Daichi and Damien had different reactions to Haeru’s comments. Daichi already understood that because it was a fluctuation in mana that had affected the creatures through an attack, it was probably something that had taken an immense amount of concentration and time. If Haeru had personally the one to be taking the attacks of the creatures then he would have been killed dozens of times over in the time it would have taken to launch that attack.
Damien didn’t understand this and thought Haeru was putting on a show of false modesty which made him cringe. ‘Didn’t think you were that type of guy. It seems I’m not the only one who thinks this way.’ As he began to look at Haeru as actual competition.
“I’m Leo.” It was Leo’s turn to approach them. He’d been with Haeru during the walk and although he wanted to come say something, after seeing Damien talking to Daichi he’d stopped himself from going with Haeru afraid that he’d get ticked off by Damien again causing another scene. Except after standing just a few feet away and saying nothing and not moving he felt more out of place not approaching than he did simply walking away.
“I’m Daichi” he gave them a nod before sitting on the ground as the others followed suit.
“I need to go make sure the others who were with me are feeling better. Remember my name. I can be a good friend, and friends are always useful to have. I’ll take my leave now.” Damien spoke in a hurry and walked away. He wanted to befriend Daichi but didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary with Leo. He already didn’t like him but he’d been saved by him and the humiliation of that still lingered in his heart.
“How much longer until we get to Lumea City?”
Haeru and Leo exchanged a glance before Leo responded “A few more days. Don’t remember?”
Daichi only shrugged “It’s complicated.”
“Isn’t it always.” Haeru said while that complicated look of his came rearing back.
He’d already been made curious like everybody else by why Daichi had been given so much attention but that had all been blown away with a casual comment from Daichi earlier. The way he described his ‘attack’ was far too close to the truth and the secret behind how he could utilize mana-vibrations. Not even the two instructors could figure it out, but the way Daichi had casually commented made it seem as if he had.