Chapter 9.1: Forest
“… get up…”
Hearing a familiar voice, Akira shifted in his sleep, letting his face hit the damp earth he was lying on.
“ONII-CHAN, DO I NEED TO WAKE YOU UP EVERY SINGLE TIME SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS?!” Accompanied by the yell was a slap to his cheek.
Akira’s eyes flicked open as signs of tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. The first thing he saw was three familiar pairs of feet standing on a brown dirt floor. Sitting up, he got a grasp on his surrounding: thick trees spread in every direction and uneven ground formed by the roots. A blue, cloudless sky spanned as far as he could see.
“… A forest?” Mystified, Akira scratched his neck, only for his nails to hit a hard, metallic band. Akira looked down and felt it. It looked very familiar to him. Taking a second, he remembered where he had seen it.
“Tano Yuri, the exam!” he yelled as he jolted to his feet.
“Yes, Onii-chan. How perceptive of you,” Akane responded in a dry voice while her shoulders sagged.
“Yo, looks like you’re up, ya feelin’ alright?”
“I don’t think he’s alright if he can’t remember what happened.”
“Eh, fair ‘nuff.”
Looking to his right, he saw his group mates. On their necks were similar silver bands that displayed a letter and a number. Currently, each of the three had “A – 30” on their bands. Looking at them, Akira had a strong feeling as to what his band said. Taking out his Speculo, he checked his reflection in its smooth surface. Sure enough, there was “S – 300” on the screen. Seeing the ridiculous number, he sighed.
“Is that ya Speculo? Damn, that’s fancy.” Although he spoke nonchalantly, Shun’s jealousy and admiration were all too evident in his eyes.
“Indeed, as expected of an S-rank.” Hiroshi, on the other hand, did nothing to hide his curiosity and awe as he walked over to get a good look at Ten.
“T-Thanks,” Akira responded nervously with a twitching mouth. To divert attention from himself, he sat down on the ground and cleared his throat. “What’s the situation?” At this, everyone else sat down beside him.
“Well Onii-chan, you were out for about 5 minutes.” Akane started filling him in. “Currently, as you can see, we’re in a large forest. The exam’s begun but we haven’t encountered anybody yet. Shun used his Speculo to scout around nearby, and it seems that we’re currently located near the border of the exam area as there is a barrier nearby.”
“Yup, saw it with my own eyes,” Shun affirmed. “Ah, right, this here’s my Speculo, Hermes!”
As he said that, Shun stood up and started to materialize his Speculo. The light released from his body gathered around his legs, forming silver leg armor reaching halfway up his thighs. The armor seemed to encase his limbs closely and thus looked hard to move in, however, Shun was able to move his legs rather freely. On the joints and creases, Hermes shined with a blue light and near his heels, there was a pair of ornate, silver wings attached.
“As ya can probably guess from the name, Hermes boosts my speed. Not only that, but it also enhances my body a bit. Also, if I concentrate mana while kickin’…” At this, Shun tensed his body and started to run. With a speed that rivaled a car, he ran several meters in mere seconds and leaped into the air. Using his momentum to rotate his body, he brought his right leg up and kicked at the air. A blade of light appeared from Hermes, slicing through 4 trees that had been in Shun’s path. “…I can create attacks. Course, that doesn’t mean I can’t use my hands for magic.” Saying so, he landed on the ground and flashed a toothy grin. “Pretty cool, right?”
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” Deeply impressed by Shun’s control, Akira agreed. “Useful as well, we can use you as a scout.” Saying so, he turned towards Hiroshi. “So what about you?”
“That would be this.”
In response to his question, Hiroshi materialized his Speculo. Contrary to Shun, Hiroshi’s Speculo was a pair of black gauntlets. They reached up to his shoulders and were made of a material that seemed to draw in the light. Similar to Shun, the creases and joints glowed with a light, however, Hiroshi’s Speculo glowed a menacing red.
Hiroshi flexed his fingers while taking a look at the joints. Once he was satisfied, he started talking. “This is Yin. It doesn’t give me any boosts in terms of elements or anything, but its ability is quite useful.” Hiroshi moved towards one of the trees cut by Shun. He crouched down and reached his hand out to it.
Akira blinked and did a double take. He was sure that a moment ago the tree had been right there, but now there was no trace of its existence.
“As you can see, Yin can make things disappear. There isn’t really a limit, but I can’t make anything intangible, like ideas, disappear. ” Hiroshi stood up while clenching his fingers. “On the other hand, I’m capable of controlling what it destroys. I can even create a space that will cause anything that touches it to disappear. But unlike Shun, I wasn’t able to practice this ability much, what with how dangerous it turned out to be.”
“That’s fine, I can see why you couldn’t. On the other hand, let’s minimize its use so we don’t end up using it on an opponent’s body,” Akira consoled.
“So, what about you? What does your Speculo do?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty damn curious myself.”
Shun and Hiroshi turned towards Akira, their inquisitive gazes set on his Speculo. Seeing their eyes, Akira face cramped up a little. Looking over their shoulders, he saw Akane wearing a similar expression to his.