Episode 106 – Willpower
The day of the practical exams is finally here and Kiel is inside a large arena created by the Replica Dungeon. Nelaira tricks Deora into attacking the Rroda brothers, and Deora ends up pursuing Kiel with a barrage of fireballs. Kiel runs away, dodging the fireballs, however, Deora manages to hit him with an explosive airball. Kiel loses his consciousness and remembers how he got trapped inside the burning house as a child.
The girl’s chest heaved up and down, her white dress stuck to her glistening skin like glue. “… the barrier… why aren’t you opening the barrier?”
The boy felt as if his heart got pierced through with a knife. Is that why no one is coming to help me? Because they can’t enter through the protective barrier surrounding the house?!
He clenched his fists so hard that he yelped in pain. “I… I don’t know how to use magic.”
The two large eyes stared at him unblinkingly for several seconds. Those two unfathomable eyes looked as if they held an entire universe inside of them. The diamond shaped pupil inside of them had shrunk down to the size of a needle.
The girl whispered softly. “You are…” Her gentle voice paused briefly before it struck Kiel’s heart like a hammer. “…weak.”
He was weak.
So very weak.
He wished he could save his mother.
He wanted to save Clawy and Arnold.
Yet he couldn’t even save himself.
He had thought that he was smart, that he was talented, capable; he hadn’t even started going to school yet, but he could already read well.
Yet now, in this greatest moment of need, he couldn’t do a thing!
Not a single thing!
A fresh round of tears started rolling down the side of Kiel’s small face as he sobbed: “I… I… it’s not my fault I wasn’t born a mage…!” His mouth upturned and he managed to glare back hatefully through the tears. “And… and… I'm just six…!”
The girl cut him off. “Age doesn’t matter. Birth doesn’t matter either. People are not born equal. But so what?”
Her face scrunched up into a frown. “Age? Birth? Unfairness of fate? Are you going to keep coming up with excuses for your own weakness? Does that make you feel better about yourself?”
The boy bit his lips, his unyielding nature finally rearing its head. “What is wrong with you? Are you going to stand there or help me?!”
“What’s wrong with you? Are you going to just sit there and await your end?” The girl countered. “Are you just going to let luck control your life and death?”
The boy’s eyes blurred, the girl’s small figure turned into a blurry blob of blonde, black and white. “No! Of course I don’t want to!!”
The girl’s eyes flashed with an emotion Kiel didn’t manage to catch. “Then become strong enough to control your own fate! If your birth locks the doors around you, then break a hole through the wall! ‘A path’ is only a route someone else has traversed. Instead of following someone else’s footsteps, become the person whose footsteps others will follow!”
Kiel’s mind shook, and pupils dilated. The girl didn’t give him any time to process her words – she reached out her hand towards the glass.
“Wait…! It’s hot!” The boy gasped, but even before he managed to finish his sentence, the girl’s palm had reached the window.
The girl didn’t yelp in pain as he expected her to.
On the contrary, the glass around her hand seemed to be the one yelping in pain. It moved aside, as if it was water, creating a hole large enough for a child to pass through.
The same window that wouldn’t budge no matter how much Kiel tried to break it, moved aside like an obedient little puppy.
The girl’s lips curled into a soft smile, and she moved away from the window. “If you can’t take the shortcut, so what? Take the roundabout way! Just, never stop walking!”
Suddenly the plank above Kiel’s head snapped and fell towards his position.
Kiel’s heart threatened to leap out of his chest, the weak limbs that had long ago turned so tired that he could barely feel them suddenly got a burst of strength.
His thin little legs pushed him forwards, and he fell through the hole, rolling like a rice dumpling, sheltering Clawy’s furry body in his arms.
Before he could even celebrate getting out of the house, his pink face slammed into an invisible wall. He stumbled back and fell on his behind.
He had rejoiced too soon. The barrier was still there. No one could come in. No one could come out.
The smoke had spread through the entire estate, making it difficult to see. It was as if a black mist had enveloped their surroundings.
There were many black shadows moving on the other side of the wall. Kiel could even see strange balls hitting the wall causing visible ripples.
“How… how did you come in?” The boy turned his head to look at the small blonde girl.
The girl ignored his question and stared at the invisible wall. “Open it. You know the trigger spell, don’t you?”
“It’s no use. I can’t cast it!” The boy cried out, his lungs constricted painfully. Oxygen was running out, he couldn’t breathe.
“Can’t or won’t?” The girl tilted her head to the side, her blond and black locks swaying left and right cutely.
No matter how Kiel looked it, this girl was just too weird! He was hugging his scrapped knees, wetting them with his tears, close to choking on the smoke. The world was turning dark in front of his eyes. Yet that girl just stood there calmly like she was on a picnic.
When she looked at the all-consuming flames around them, it looked as if she was looking at flowers. Like there was nothing dangerous about this situation. As if even if the sky fell down it wouldn’t be able to shake her calm.
The boy’s shrill voice filled with hiccups was barely comprehensible. “Yes, I am weak… and useless! …do you think… I want to be this way?! …I …want to be strong …stronger than anyone else! But… but… wishing for something hard enough… isn’t enough… to make it true! I didn’t choose… to be weak!”
The girl continued to stare at him unblinkingly. Even though she was breathing hard, even though she was drenched with sweat, even though her white dress was no longer white, there were no tears glistening in her eyes. “You are wrong. Weakness is a choice. You decided that you don’t have what it takes. You chose to stop fighting.”
The boy gritted his teeth, but he had no strength to respond, his eyes were glistening with tears, he could no longer see the girl’s face clearly.
As if she knew that he couldn’t see her, the girl squatted down in front of him, bringing her face towards his close enough for their noses to touch. She stared right into his eyes. “You are afraid of failure. But don’t you get it? You’ve already lost. People who fight, suffering defeat after defeat, aren’t the losers. As long as they are alive, as long as they are still fighting, they have not lost! Where there is a will, there is a way! The moment you stop fighting is the moment you lose!”
Kiel’s heart skipped a beat, and his eyes widened, reflected in them was the most beautiful smile in existence. A smile that had the power to turn night into day. A smile that was shining brighter than the fire around them.
The girl stood up once again, extending her small hand towards him. “Life is a battle…So fight! Fight! Fight! Fight with all you have until the day you die!”
* * *
“Fight! Fight!” The melodic chant echoed inside Kiel’s head. “Where there is a will there is a way! The moment you stop fighting is the moment you lose!”
Kiel’s pupils shrunk until they were barely visible and his heart quivered.
I’m not the same as back then!
Weakness is a choice!
And I chose to be strong!
The moment I stop fighting is the moment I lose!
He stared at the fireball in front of him. Its flames were all that he could see. They were those same all-consuming flames that he detested the most. Flames that made his chest constrict and his blood run cold.
Yet, that same blood had suddenly started seething as if it was a rampaging tide, as if it wanted to break free of its restraints.
The mana around him that stood just as frozen as the flames started seething just like his blood. It started flickering like the fire in front of it. Red flames against blue flames.
And until my very last breath, I won’t stop fighting!
His resolution seemed to ripple through time and space.
It shifted and distorted.
And then it shattered.
Countless cracks spread in front of him.
His entire vision contained only cracks.
What stood in front of him was a dome of cracked earth, shielding him from the flames.
He remembered that a thought of it flashed through his mind.
Yet, he remembered not when and how he had cast it.
It was too fast.
Faster than thought.
Faster than time.
Faster than reality.
It was an impossibility.
Yet it stood right in front of him.
Kiel felt as if fog that enveloped his mind suddenly lifted. All emotions that wrecked chaos inside his mind evaporated into thin air leaving only calm behind. Kiel’s mind that resembled a stormy sea suddenly turned into a still lake.
What am I afraid of?
Pain? Failure? Death?
So, what if I hurt? Is there a pain more excruciating than the pain of back then?
So, what if I fail? I’ll keep trying until I succeed!
So, what if I die? In this world, I can afford to die a thousand times over!
His blood seethed to the point in which the hot turned into cold. It boiled not from anger nor hate, it wasn’t anxiety either.
It was something else.
A strong desire without a concrete target. Determination?
Or perhaps it was simply…
* * *
Deora’s eyes widened in shock. That speed…?! Seeing a wall of earth sprout up from out of nowhere, Deora halted his charge and instead took several jumps back, staring at the rock dome with a solemn look.
Deora suddenly had a bad feeling.
There was something about this person that unsettled him.
Perhaps it was the fact that he managed to somehow survive the explosion even though his spells broke down.
Or maybe the speed with which he managed to morph an earth shield left him unsettled?
Perhaps it was the look that flashed in his eyes a moment ago.
Or maybe it was an instinct embedded into Deora’s very bones.
If he had gotten this feeling earlier, he would have picked to fight the other black and blue haired dude.
Alas, now it was too late for regrets.
Deora’s pause allowed Kiel to go on the offensive. He released a large outburst of mana inside his dome, preparing for some kind of a spell. The mana inside the dome was so dense it made it hard for Deora to pick up what spells Kiel was casting. His mana sense received too much interference.
Deora decided he couldn’t afford to wait for Kiel’s spell to finish casting and he erupted with the last of his mana, giving it all in his effort to bring Kiel down.
He couldn’t create a large explosion because he was too close to the epicenter, therefore he sent a few small explosive airballs that should have been powerful enough to shatter the shield.
And indeed, several booms were heard in rapid succession, causing small tremors.
The earth shield cracked and started falling apart like a broken egg shell.
Deora sent several fireballs towards the crack, his eyes locked onto the hole, waiting to see the result.
Time seemed to slow down.
An impact could be heard.
Yet, as the loud sound reached Deora’s ears, his head snapped around, his body twisting.
For the sound wasn’t the sound of fireballs hitting Kiel.
It was the sound of earth cracking.
And it came from behind Deora.
A figure jumped out of the hole in the ground, causing Deora’s pupils to dilate and his heart to almost leap out of his chest.
Deora’s mind couldn’t feel the person leaping towards him, but he could tell it wasn’t an illusion.
This attack was too quick, too silent, too unexpected!
A glass dagger enlarged in Deora’s vision, and he forcefully twisted his upper body to dodge the fatal blow aiming for his neck.
His twirl almost sprained his back, but he managed to dodge the fatal blow by a hair’s width.
Deora hurriedly jumped back, too disturbed by the close call to even remember to curse.
Kiel had intentionally filled his earth dome with mana to confuse Deora’s mana sense, so he wouldn’t be able to tell that Kiel was no longer within the dome.
He had then concealed his own presence and dug an underground tunnel towards Deora. He even chose the perfect moment to launch a sneak attack, all for the sake of this all or nothing shot. Even Deora’s explosions were used to cover up the tremors of the ground caused by Kiel’s digging.
Unfortunately, although his attack could be said to be flawless, Deora’s reaction time was the cream of the crop. Before his mind could catch up with the events, his body had already reflexively dodged the blow.
Deora rubbed his back with a dark face. Fury burned brightly inside his yellow eyes. “Congratulations! You’ve successfully pissed me off!” He spat between clenched teeth.
Coming up in the next episode:
Kiel’s heat isolation spell he had cast on himself was slowly failing. It couldn’t overpower Deora’s heat field.
Kiel lunged towards the egg with his fingers outstretched. He could almost touch it, he was almost there!
His cooling spell was struggling hopelessly to overpower the heat field. Yet it was like a little pechuh trying to escape the jaws of a lupax. A futile effort.
Kiel’s fingers which were twisting the ring abruptly halted. His head rigidly turned back towards Deora.
His eyes glazed over. There were originally two fingers, but they suddenly turned into four and then six.