Chapter 86 – Battle
“I’m invincible I’m invincible HAHAHAH” Damien began to scream ecstatically as he attained his first minor insight into the element of fire.
All around him bodies were littered on the ground and blood was everywhere.
The corpses of multiple participants were littered across the grounds, some pieces even high up in the trees. Not dead bodies, but mutilated corpses, pieces everywhere leaving one unable to discern which piece belonged to which person.
Their limbs were severed, their heads lopped off, their stomachs shredded and their innards falling out as the stretch of bile and blood reeked throughout the area.
Even as he attained this small insight into manipulating fire with mana, Damien didn’t have a chance to continue gloating before another forest imp dashed out from one of the trees at a frightening speed aiming it’s little claws at his neck.
Damien noticed just in time as he threw himself on the ground, his sword still in hand as he rolled to the side to avoid another attack from another imp.
The imps were everywhere in the trees, and the trees were dense enough, with foliage to cover the sun’s rays. Everyone still alive was trapped as they were swarmed by wave after wave of attacks from these imps.
Although small, no bigger than one meter (3 ft) tall, their speed was incredible. Normal humans would have been killed without even seeing their claws nearing them but all of the people here were far from normal. They were the creme de la creme of the boys and girls under 18 years of age of Lumea City. These people were as fierce as untested children could be, and though they were being attacked and killed left and right, some of them still had the will to fight back. Others maintained enough composure to defend themselves, hope still in their eyes.
No one had gotten a good look at any of these imps yet, but the moment someone had called out ‘IMPS!’ earlier everyone in unison had pulled out their weapons ready to defend!
They could tell these imps were small and wry, but nothing else. They moved so fast from the trees to the ground and back up, sparing only enough time while attacking in their descent and another attack on their way back up the trees that no one could get a clear look at them. They were being killed off one by one. The imps laughing in the trees as they spewed blood from pieces of the corpses they took with them back to the trees.
The blood dripping down, as only 4 people were left along with Damien. Even on the floor, blood around him, on his clothes and now dripping on his face, his determination to survive was near admirable.
’I can’t die here! I won’t! I’m a genius! I just had my first insight into fire! I’m not even 18! I’m a genius! I will live!’ his confidence growing from his own speech to himself as he screamed at the imps in the trees as he wrestled to get back to his feet “Come down here! I will kill you all!”
…Three days earlier.
Damien had walked away from the professor and other participants assuming the majority if not all of them would follow him. In fact, he didn’t look backwards until after he’d walked over an hour, and when he did he was in shock.
‘Only this many followed me…?’
He had expected much more than half of the group to follow him, but that shock quickly dissipated as he noticed none of the professors or guardsmen were around. In that instant a small sense of wariness passed through him before Damien began to assume that they were just sticking to the shadows.
‘That’s got to be it. Otherwise we would feel too safe. This is definitely to unsettle us’
After coming up with a reasonable explanation as to why none of the guardsmen were around he turned around and began walking again.
If he only knew that no one was following him he would have stilled at the thought of being so exposed in one of the most dangerous places known to the residents of Lumea City. Instead, with his confidence quickly recovered he began to move forward. Using he sword to cut the various obstructions in his way, he felt disdain for having to use one of the best swords his family had to offer in such a way.
The majority of the other participants didn’t doubt Damien’s ability at all. He came off as a decisive outspoken natural born leader. Albeit he also came off as overbearing and even perhaps spoiled, a lot of them rationalized that as normal considering his family and the manner in which he was raised. In their eyes ‘How could he not be spoiled?’
They walked and rested for a few hours. Whenever Damien would begin to move again they would begin to move as well. They didn’t set up a formal rotation for who would sleep at different times, but as if they’d been through this together before, some of them naturally stayed awake while others fell asleep. This was only because some of them were too wary to be able to fall asleep in such a dangerous place and some of the others were just too tired to not sleep while assuming someone else would warn them if danger was near.
It was only Damien and a girl named Karina who was in their group who fell asleep at ease, not because of some simple reason but because they both came to the same conclusion.
‘This early on, some of them will naturally be too wary or afraid to sleep. Therefore some of them will exhaust themselves by staying up. Naturally later on some of these people will be too exhausted after staying up too not fall asleep, and when that happens those that have previously rested will be too wary to not stay awake. While all this happens, they’ll all slowly get more and more tired. Meanwhile I can ensure that resting at the beginning will be the safest. If I do that, then I’ll definitely be the last one standing.’
They both simultaneously came to the conclusion. Neither was thinking about simply passing the exam, they were both cut throat and from prestigious families. Passing the exam would be too little to award them any merit. They both needed to excel in the exam, and if they couldn’t kill their competition, then they could have the competition killed off with the beasts in the forest.
In fact, Karina took this logic a step further. While she was being cutthroat, she was also being pragmatic unlike Damien who was hoping they all died leaving him the sole survivor. Karina was hoping that most would die but if they didn’t and some survived that could be used to her benefit as well. If they survived and it was mainly due to her efforts, then not only could she gain some followers for life, but that could perhaps make her look even more noble to the professor grading them!
It would be so much simpler if they could just kill the competition but they definitely could not. Although the competition for survival was fierce within Lumea City due to the limited resources and the ever growing population there was a strict “no killing one another” rule in the Lumea Academy. Both for the students, teachers and anyone who had ever been a student of the academy. They were forever forbidden from taking the life of another one of the previous or current students. This rule was set in effect much earlier on when the world was growing more dangerous and the humans in the city had begun turning on one another.
One thing had become very clear to the headmaster of the academy, and that was that humanity was on the precipice of it’s demise. If the talented individuals killed one another off, then that could be the end for their city and even more so for their race. Therefore he instituted a rule for all those in the academy, that killing was forbidden. Those who had value to the city and to the human race, were deemed unacceptable to kill.
This rule was strictly enforced, and with Lumea Academy being the hub for all things important within the city. It was a rule that held a lot of weight. At the time the only one who openly opposed the headmaster was the Queen of Death. She publicly stated that ‘Only the strong have a right to live’ but even her influence was not enough to sway the influence of the Academy.
Therefore Damien and Karina rested as much as they could whenever Damien who was currently the leader stopped for everyone to rest, and continued whenever he said it was time to move.
After three days nothing had happened until the early morning, as they were moving Damien caught sight of a small group of goblins.
‘Yes! Finally! Now I can start making my name! Hehe, these are even goblins too! Such easy kills!’
There were about 10 of them and the moment he saw them, he gave a signal to the others and haphazardly charged right at them. Unlike the others, Damien had no reservations and was unafraid in the least about engaging in combat with goblins who deemed to be too weak to be considered a threat on any day of the week.
Charging right into the group of goblins with his sword in hand he killed one before it even had the chance to fight back by stabbing his sword through its chest. It’s panicked gaze stared into Damien’s eyes as shock filled it’s eyes unable to fully comprehend what had just happened before the light faded from it’s eyes.
Over 20 participants changed in behind them and a bloodbath commenced. Fueled by their desire to overcome their trial and the easy kill Damien had gotten. They were no longer hesitant as they moved in behind him within seconds and begun a massacre. The goblins were killed with an ease that would have made their parents proud.
Almost at the same, as if by coincidence or fate multiple grounds of people were committing murder after murder. Killing of monsters and beasts throughout different sections of the forest. The forest was being littered with blood, of both humans, monsters and beasts alike. Hundreds of deaths within the span of hours, the tally growing by the minute.
While everyone was congratulating one another and wiping blood of their weapons as they celebrated their first victory. Cheering and congratulating one another, without any one noticing anything was a amiss even as the first body hit the ground dead.
In the distance only a layer deeper into the forest… The mist that had stayed dormant for years and years had begun to churn. As if willed to life it began to spiral… The mist began churning and moving clockwise as the air around it dissipated creating steam that turned to what looked like mist but was only adding another layer of steam to the mist as it roiled as if alive. Something had begun to trigger it from the inside of the mist and from the surrounding part of the forest…