Thousands of beasts parted as he moved. Their silent steps no longer so silent as they rushed to get out the way of his crystal’s light. It was then that Delias looked around. More and more spots of light were popping up all around him. They’re catching up to me. And fast! This averati constitution is no joke.
Delias knew he could not match the averati in strength or speed. In fact, each averati had their special characteristics that made them powerful, but every one of them, no matter the ability or constitution, were physically stronger than the average human. Delias shook his head. How was he supposed to come out on top amongst all these averati? Delias had no aspirations on being the top prospective student, but he knew all too well of what places like an academy would do. Segregation of information and resource. Those who did well received more resources and access to valuable information. Delias could not afford to be at the bottom and be subjected to staying any longer in the averati world. He wanted to go home, back to Northcroke City and settle many things. And to do that, he needed information; he needed resources.
As hundreds of averati were now running on either side of him, and some even going past him, Delias could see that a few were of groups of two to four using just one crystal. Screams echoed out, cutting of quickly as some members of a group were too far to the edge of the light and were grabbed and swarmed by many small figures.
Seeing this, Delias became even more worried. Looking at his speed, some of the averati around him might veer his way. They would fight to get his crystals! And Delias would not be able to do anything against that, let alone if someone was truly desperate, and did not have anymore crystals in reserve, they would definitely not care that a fight might open themselves up to the beasts around them because only one of those options allowed a chance of survival!
Delias tried to run faster. His lungs burned and his abdominal muscles cramped up.
Might not even have to worry about them. At the rate Delias was going, he would to have to stop at some point and rest. That meant that more would catch up, and they may even be the ones that were last to reach the crystals on the totem. By now everyone knew the crystals did not last long. Delias, himself, was already on his third crystal. The ones in the back would definitely be desperate by now. If a group, each with a crystal decided to gang up, surround him and have one team member fight while the others use their crystals to ward off the beasts, he would not last a second, let alone find a way to break from their enclosure. The averati were just too strong.
But just as Delias was thinking all these things, a dull green light popped up ahead. More and more lights popped up. And soon, Delias could see what there were.
Hundreds of craters, with a glowing green and black lava, occasionally bubbling out an wispy green gas, were spread out before them. Light emanated off the thick liquid, brightening up the entire area. But that was not the most important thing. There are none of those demonic little things.
Delias and the other students rushed over. Coming from the darkness, the students now ran into an area filled with light.
Delias sighed as he stopped a few meters deep into the new territory. He breathing was hard, and he held his knees as he was bent over, keeping himself from getting dizzy.
When he caught his breath, that’s when he lifted his head and looked around. Left and right were all the same, but ahead was different. Over two hundred meters in, the darkness continued. It seems this is like a resting area.
More and more students came from the darkness and took a rest. They either slumped to the ground or found some people that they had separated from. But many of them were tense. Right now, those who were friendly and became acquainted now gave each other complex or hostile looks. Must have realized that they are now enemies. Either that or something happened at the totem that they can’t come back from. Delias just chuckled. This was an individual-type competition as well as a trial. There were no teams, no being buddy buddy. Things were bound to get bad. They are too young. Too inexperienced. Though Delias could not say much as he lived half of his life in an old room, almost never getting the chance to go outside.
Delias continued forward, only now with a much more leisure walk. He decided to go near the edge and take a break. That way once he had to set off again, he would have a small head start of the others who were resting or were just coming in to rest. Delias passed a few, those who had been ahead of him previously, which were only about twenty to thirty. I guess the trial is not that bad. I am still near the top; and who would have thought that there would be a place to rest?
And as that thought ran across Delias’s mind, a shock ran through him. No. Why didn’t I think of it sooner! Delias bolted. He did not stop. Damn it! I get no rest. If people think this is just a resting area like i did then a fight will truly break out!
Delias knew that before, the only thing preventing people from really attacking each other for their crystals were the beasts. When it was before, at the end of the narrow pass at the cliff’s face, students may have thought that one was sufficient and more would just be a safety measure, but now they knew a lot more was necessary. And now, here near these lava pools, there were no beasts. No obstacle to cause them to hesitate. A lot of averati were a year or two younger than the look of his current body, but there were many that looked older. Stronger. But whether they were young or old, Delias knew he could not contend with any of them after seeing how fast they ran. And in midst of all these averati, even if no one directly attacked Delias, he may be crushed.
It was then that Delias heard sounds coming from behind. It sounded like someone was chasing after him! Damn it. Damn it. Damn it! Why me? God, why me?! Delias veered left and right, listening to make sure that he was really being chased. He did not look back as he was afraid he might stumble.
Delias had been about sixty meters in before he started to run. He ran and ran, seventy meters… Eighty meters… It sounded like whoever was behind him was gaining and fast! Now, Delias was just about ninety meters in, and it was then that he noticed someone standing there. The guy had short, dark hair in which the very tips of the strand was a shimmering red. He stood there motionlessly, staring into the open space. Even with Delias’s mind reeling, preoccupied with his prospective assailant, he recognized the person ahead. That averati was exactly the student that first went up to dig out a few crystals! They idiot that almost got me killed! If they had mobbed up any sooner, I would have been crushed. Or worse. Stuck there without a chance to get a crystal myself and without a chance to go back up the cliff. Once the trial began, no one left it.
Delias did not want to get caught in between the two. He did not know what the student ahead was thinking. He ran left, opening up a wide gap between him and the guy ahead. It was at that moment that he felt the air shift at the nape of his neck. Delias lunged forward with a twist, something he learned when he was in the military, and as his upper torso turned towards the assailant, his hand reached within his bag and he flung three rock crystals. The dense crystals slammed into a slim, but muscular, green averati with horns on his hands.
The assailant flinched, bringing up his hands to block. Delias used that moment to run some more. He did not hear anyone chasing him again. And that’s when Delias knew he bought some time. Three crystals were a lot. After the journey that consumed at least three crystals, the assailant would likely go pick them up before others took them instead. Why would he get the idea that Delias had a lot more? Not many could say they had started with six, let alone, over twenty. And only two or three of the five thousand students saw how many crystals he dug out. Out of those five thousand, was it highly probable that those two or three were chasing him? No it wasn’t. That was what Delias had been putting his hopes on. Stay and pick up three versus fighting a death match that might end you up with just one.
Delias ran and ran. He looked to his right, seeing the first student standing there. But he was not just standing and looking aimlessly as before, but directly right at him! In the moment that Delias was passing the first student, he looked into his eyes. The sclera was black, the iris a golden red flame. The sight sucked Delias in, muddling his mind.
Boom! Delias slammed into something. It was open space when he ran, but as soon as he passed the first student, the air itself warped. It broke and echoed out a deep wail. Delias felt as if the front of his body was slapped hard. It was as if he ran right into a pool of thick liquid. A portal?! Another damned portal?! No. Its different. What is this?! Delias’s heart shook. He had been reckless. That first student was not just standing there for no reason. He knew that something was there.
Delias’s thoughts raced as he melded into the warping, translucent liquid. It was then that Delias thought back to the darkness he saw on the other side. The gases and the lava pools. There was no other side. It was a mirror image! But then, why didn’t I see my reflection or the reflection of the others? Am I going to die?!
And as Delias was consumed into the pool, his breath stalling for a moment, his vision blurred.
And in his mind, he screamed.