Chapter 14.1: Spectators
Kei landed on his rear as he fell from a vortex. Before he could get his bearings, his group came crashing on top.
“Oof!” “Ugah!” “Mothe-!”
On the cold stone floor, a human haystack lay. Groaning, they rolled away from each other while holding their bodies in pain. After recovering from his shock, Kei realized they weren’t alone.
“Damn, they got another group!”
“Haaa… You guys as well?”
“Just how many points do they plan to get!?”
“Ugh.” Kei stood up and stretched his back, only to hear several cracks from it. Clutching his aching head, he stared at his surroundings.
“Isn’t this the hall we started in? Then…We were eliminated?!”
Occupying the hall were other groups, sitting on the floor and watching the monitor screens. A nearby girl noticed the confusion on Kei’s face.
“Hey you!” she called out. “You’re pretty confused, right? Probably wondering what the hell is going on.”
“Huh?” Kei blinked for a moment. “Ah, yeah, how’d you know?”
Hearing his question, she rolled her eyes and pointed to the screens at the front of the hall. Following her finger with his eyes, he saw their contents. His hunch was confirmed.
“So a spectating lobby of sorts.”
The screens were displaying the current battles and groups still in the competition. In one of the scenes, he found Akira, who had a grim expression on his face for some reason. He was standing next to a red-haired girl whose facial features matched his.
‘Ah, that must be Akane.’ Kei had heard about Akira’s sister when conversing with him in the past.
With a curious look, he kept watching on. Akane was skipping over to the last member of their group in a cheerful manner. It was a wild looking boy with black hair. He wore silver leggings and looked identical to the injured boy Kei had seen before. On his finger, he was twirling four familiar metal bands.
“Ah! My collar!”
“Yup, you’ve been eliminated by them,” the girl said. She sighed before falling flat onto the ground. “And you’ll feel even angrier when you see HOW it happened.”
“It seems you speak from experience.”
At his simple observation, she gave him a hollow laugh that had no happiness within.
“Ahahaha… Yeah, you’re right on the dot. My group got eliminated by them. Watch this.”
“What are they doing?”
“I’ll explain it to you soon. Just watch for now.”
The sight was peculiar to him.
The boy he’d seen standing next to Akira had two black gauntlets on each of his arms. He walked around the field, placing what seemed to be low tier spells inside small dents on the ground.
Akane was producing several small rock spheres, and when she was done, she passed them to the boy wearing silver leggings. Kei was taken aback by the speed he ran with as he put each rock sphere into a hole and covered them up.
At last, Akane walked the perimeter of the field and set up a humongous spell. Shee brushed off her hands with a satisfied look and gave her brother a thumbs up. Afterwards, she and the wild-looking boy went into the trees, while Akira and the boy with the gauntlets sat down at the same spot Kei had discovered them.
For five minutes, nothing eventful occur. But at the start of the sixth minute…
“Ah, it’s starting. The other screen,” the girl hinted.
On the monitor beside the one focused on Akira, another group was on the path Kei’s team had taken. They had their Speculo out as they walked into the clearing. They readied their weapons and approached the two Maestros.
“So first, these disgusting people lure others in with those two looking all worn down,” the girl explained while frowning. “Since one of them is an S-rank and the other’s an ‘A’, you’d approach with all the care in the world, right?”
“So they take advantage of that. Watch.”
The group seemed to have noticed the conditions of both Akira and the gauntlet-wielder, as their tense stances loosened a little. And just then, the gigantic spell that Akane had prepared was activated.
“So you go in, you see their condition, and you think to yourself, ‘Heh, this should be easy. I even heard rumors the S-rank has mana paralysis!’ or something like that”—the girl was tugging at her hair in visible frustration—“What these absolute demons do next…”