Chapter 31: End of the Exam
The white space vanished around him, replaced by the forest. Elementality was still active, and Akira was still falling towards the ground.
That was weird…but…I don’t have time to think deeply over it.
Akira’s head was still stuck in the eye of the storm of questions that had plagued him, but the words of the Prisoner dragged him out.
‘Time has stopped, but that hasn’t increased the amount of time you have to think in the real world’ was what he told me. Then, I still have 2 minutes to figure out where those two are.
Akira scanned the area around him, and noticed something right away.
Are those…? Yeah, those are the arrows I deflected earlier when I jumped into the sky.
Below him, he saw several arrows falling towards the earth, their tips about to stab into the coarse dirt. Earlier, when he had been panicking, Akira hadn’t noticed them. He sighed mentally, as he was unable to move his lips while using Elementality. He thought he had finally caught the archer, but these arrows had been formed by traps.
Well, that’s disappointing. I guess I should—wait.
As Akira was about to examine the other areas, a peculiarity presented itself to him. Almost all of the arrows were falling to the ground at a nearly identical, high angle, but one was approaching the ground at a slightly lower angle than the others.
Come to think of it, while I was panicked, it’s strange that I didn’t notice any arrows coming in from the outside. Unless…
As he thought that, the arrows finally closed the small gap between their tips and the earth, stopping a centimeter or two into the Earth as most of their momentum had been lost when Akira deflected them. As expected, they exhibited no strange effects. Akira was tempted to redirect his focus to other areas of the forest, but his instincts held his gaze in place.
A second after the low angled arrow hit the ground, it glowed very faintly. For a moment, Akira it was just reflected sunlight, but the slight bluish tint in its glow proved otherwise. Then, the arrow vanished altogether.
Of course! To be extra careful, she was setting up the new traps while using the arrow volleys to hide the trap arrows.
Akira glanced back at the hole the arrow had dug in the earth before disappearing.
Judging from the direction the arrow was facing, it came from…
“…Directly behind me!”
Without waiting for his feet to touch the floor, Akira canceled his ability. Vulcan had been raised above his head when he slowed downtime, so he swung down as fast as possible with all his might as the ground came closer.
One point…One point…
The conversation with the mysterious Prisoner fresh in his mind, he willed all of the energy in Ten to focus at the arrowhead-shaped tip of the blade. The lower half of the blade lost its glow, and the top half grew brighter until it shone a dazzling orange like molten steel.
“All of it at one point!”
Akira hit the ground with the greatsword, it’s tip digging into the ground. With a bang, an explosion burst out of the end of the sword, launching Akira backward at several meters per second.
Akira spun around and swung Vulcan, this time focusing all of the flames in a wide area. A wall of flames appeared, burning down anything in his way. The flames continued wreaking havoc as they ran ahead of their master, razing the forest. Nothing survived, save a familiar great shield which appeared from within them.
“There you are!” Akira yelled.
He quickly repositioned himself midair so that his feet faced the shield, and flew straight into it. The impact shook his entire body, and forced the shield to slide backward several meters. Akira backflipped off of the shield and landed on the floor.
From behind the shield, two familiar figures appeared. A lanky boy grasping the shield and a short girl wielding a bow. At the sight of them, Akira couldn’t help but grin as he confirmed the success of his strategy. However, another announcement brought him back to reality
[WARNING: 30 SECONDS REMAINING]
“Tch…you aren’t running away or trapping me this time!” With a single, thunderous step to match his roar, he dashed towards Amaya, sword raised at his side.
“Not again!” Hiroaki cried out as he slid in front of Amaya, slamming his shield to the floor. Akira felt a familiar rumble in the ground, but no roots appeared to assault him.
I see, he’s probably using the roots to stabilize himself to absorb the impact.
He was in front of the shield within a second. Right before he closed the last meter, Akira spun around, swinging Vulcan and gaining momentum.
“Just what I wanted!”
As Vulcan swung towards the shield, Akira focused the sword’s energies into the tip of the blade. Once again glowing like molten steel, the arrowhead-shaped end of the sword contacted the shield. Like earlier, an explosion burst out of the head.
All of the roots holding down Hiroaki’s feet were incinerated, and the roots connecting the shield to the ground snapped off like twigs. Hiroaki was sent flying once again, but at a greater velocity than before. He flew straight through four trees, breaking them in half and continuing forwards. Once he hit the fifth tree, his momentum finally died down and he fell to the ground.
Amaya ran over to Hiroaki, preparing to flee with him once again. But once she was a few meters away from him, a robotic voice came from his collar, delivering an unfamiliar message in a familiar tone.
[EXCESSIVE DAMAGE CONFIRMED, TRANSFERRING TO MEDICAL BAY]
Just like that, the collar fell off of his neck, and a vortex appeared above him. Hiroaki’s unconscious body lifted up into the vortex, and vanished from the forest. The gigantic dome withered and collapsed around them, and so did the giant walls in the distance. The only indication he had ever been there were the four broken trees and the metal collar which rolled on the ground.
“Well, that’s convenient for me.”
Amaya spun on the spot and faced Akira as he walked over to her. Staring directly into her eyes, he raised Vulcan and pointed it at her.
“Give up, it’s over.”
He stood tall, a calm declaration of victory coming from his grinning lips. However, that didn’t stop the beads of sweat that rolled down the side of his face.
[WARNING: 20 SECONDS REMAINING]
Akira held his eye contact with Amaya, awaiting her response
[WARNING: 15 SECONDS REMAINING]
At that moment, he saw her bit her lip and shift her foot back. Alarms immediately began blaring in his head, and he prepared to run forwards. Amaya quickly snapped back the string, and began shimmering out of existence.
“I said I’m not letting you get away!”
With one, great leap, Akira closed the distance between him and Amaya, and swept his legs around hers, knocking her off her feet. With haste, he took Vulcan and sliced a small gash onto the front of her thigh, causing blood to flow out.
“Nn!” Amaya let out a small cry and winced slightly.
“That was your quadriceps I just cut. Without it, you won’t be able to walk, much less run. It’s over.”
Through her half-shut eyes, Amaya stared back at him in silence, before shutting them completely. She raised her hand to her neck, grasping the metal collar with her small fingers.
“Impossible to win. Surrender.”
She tugged at the collar, and let it drop to the floor. A vortex appeared above her, and she was gone from the forest.
“Phew… Just in time.”
Akira let out a sigh of relief as Vulcan began to glow.
The red aura surrounding him dispersed, and his body suddenly felt as if it had been poured full of cement. With a black revolver in his hand, he collapsed to the floor.
“I’m so glad.”
Akane sighed in relief as she saw the wooden dome in the distance crumble to pieces. She hadn’t been able to witness the fight from her position after the three ran into the woods, but the outcome of the battle was clear to her.
“The exam’s over.” She said while stretching her arms to the sky. “Looks like it’s a tie of two to two. I’m sure Onii-chan beat those two, and the twins aren’t anywhere to be found.”
“Really? There’s some time left, you know?” Tsubaki asked from her side. “Haya-chan can still go get his collar you know?”
“Oh no, it’s over.” Akane grinned. “After all…”
In an instant, Akane’s hand was latched on Tsubaki’s collar. Tsubaki stiffened for a moment but realized that Akane seemingly had no plans to take it off.
“She’s right behind us you know? There’s no way she’ll make it in time to Onii-chan from here.”
“Eh?” Tsubaki blinked.
“…How’d you know I was here?”
Akane and Tsubaki turned their heads in sync, and a brown-haired girl wearing an eyepatch appeared in their view, sighing dejectedly.
“Wait, actually? Haya-chan! When did you get here?”
“Weeell, since ten minutes ago?”
“Puahahahaha! Yup!” Haya confirmed while letting out a loud laugh. After calming down. She turned to Akane. “But really, how did you know I was here?”
“That’s simple. As I said, the twins aren’t anywhere to be found, so we can assume you beat them right?” Akane explained with a grin. “But it’s not like you’ll just wait around doing nothing, so I assumed you’d come here.”
“So how did you know I was coming here instead of going to your brother?”
“Also simple. Tsubaki-san here told me all of you have been using a Call spell throughout the exam. I wish I thought of that… Anyways, you probably asked those two if help was necessary. They likely said no since this was before Onii-chan used his ability, and so you probably decided to find Tsubaki-san so you could help her fight me, the next biggest threat.”
“Puahahahaha! That’s a looot of confidence right there!”
“Ufufufufufu! It’s true you know?
“Wait, wait, wait!” Tsubaki interrupted the two cackling girls. “Why didn’t you call me if you were coming!”
“Oh sorry about that, Tsu-chan.” Haya apologized. “It’s just…”
“You’re the type of girl who wears alllll her emotions on her sleeve!” Haya sighed. “If I told you, then this girl here would’ve figured it out within seconds!”
“Wha—that’s not true!” Tsubaki yelled while turning to Akane. “Right?”
Akane fidgeted on the spot while avoiding eye contact.
“From what little time I’ve spent with you, that’s a definite yes.”
“Uguuuh!” Tsubaki groaned and covered her face with her hands.
“Oh, I said that out loud? Whoops!”
“Puahahahaha! Akane was it? Aka-chan then. Do you have time after this?”
“Hmm? Yes, why?”
“I was thinking of—”
But before Haya could fully respond, a buzzing noise resounded from all three of their collars and a voice came out from the speakers installed in them.
“This is your examiner, Tano Yuri speaking. The exam is over, and you will be transported back. Congratulations on the end of your exam.”
“Ah, it looks like we’ll have to continue our talk once we get back.” Haya scratched her head while muttering. “Well! Let’s go greet Ama-chan, Hiro-chan, and your brother.”
With that, all of their collars fell to the floor. A vortex appeared over each of them, and the world faded to black.