“Are you all ready?” the man in the sky asked after ten minutes had passed. “The third portion of the competition is about to begin. He gestured at the scoreboard floating beside him. “Though this thousand point lead that Lucia Fluffytail has may look daunting, it is not insurmountable.” The competitors stared at him, then at me. “Okay, I lied. No matter how hard you try, none of you will be as capable as her. But it is still completely possible to wrest away first place during the actual competition.”
Isn’t this the actual competition? What the heck? Oh, right. Ilya did say this was just a preliminary. I guess the outstanding people get to participate in the actual event? Then what was the reward he was promising us for being in the top hundred? Was that something else?
“And with that being said, let the trials begin.” The man in the sky clapped his hands, and the world darkened. But just barely; if it weren’t for my awesome senses, I wouldn’t even have noticed. But what was super noticeable was the water springing out of the ground! It was already at my ankles and rapidly rising!
“Ilya! Save me!” I can’t swim! What is this bullshit exam!? Right before I was about to attach myself to Ilya, we were pushed away from each other by invisible forces in the water. The water level was already up to my hips! I’m going to drown at this rate! And are those fins sticking out from the surface?
“Sharks!” someone shouted.
The heck is a shark? It’s probably super tasty, but I don’t have time to worry about that right now! If I don’t do something quick, I’m really going to die. If, if I can’t swim, then I’ll kill the person summoning the water! “Unrelenting Path of Slaughter: A Storm of a Thousand Breaking Blades!”
It’s working! The water level isn’t rising. All I have to do is keep it up, and I’ll be safe! Stupid shark, get away from me. I kicked it, but my foot passed through it. Illusion? Or were sharks liquid? I guess it’d make sense if they were since they live in the water.
“Are you trying to kill me!?” the man in the sky shouted from above.
“Yes!” Why is he so damn slippery? Every time I think I have him, he manages to barely avoid it or block it. Then, I have to double the speed of my output! “Durandal, Puppers! You two help hunt him too!” Obviously, Durandal would know how to use Breaking Blade considering he was the one who taught it to me. And Puppers can … I really don’t know what Puppers can do, but I’ll summon him anyways! Oh, he can keep my socks dry for me.
“This is a test of defense! Defense!” the man in the sky shouted as blue sword beams accompanied my red ones. Wow, Durandal and I can create a blue and red painting in the sky if we try hard enough. Maybe we could make some bits purple if we hit each other’s beam at the right time. Nice! I hit that slippery bastard! But it only scratched his arm? How thick is his skin? “Stop attacking me!”
“The best defense is a great offense! The only way to ensure you won’t get hurt is to kill your enemy before they can hurt you.” That’s what the Path of Slaughter taught me even though I didn’t like following it because it was scary at first. But I got used to it.
“That’s it!” the man in the sky roared. Ten circles appeared around him, circling in place. Huge black clouds formed in the sky, and purple lightning snaked through them. “Heavenly lightning, tear the skies asunder. Thunder—”
“Wait!” Ilya shouted. “You’ll kill us all if you do that!”
“God dammit!” the man in the sky shouted as the lightning dissipated. Nice one, Ilya! Ooh, I hit him again, this time on the leg. My aim’s getting better. “Flames of hell, incinerate the world. Fire—”
“That’ll kill us too!” Ilya shouted.
Sweet! Four-hit combo! Keep distracting him, Ilya. He’ll be dead in no time. I’ll save us all from this watery grave.
“Stop! Stop!” the man in the sky shouted. The water levels are receding, keep attacking, Durandal! “The test’s over! The third test is over! You goddam chipmunk, I said stop!”
He can’t be talking about me, right? I’m part squirrel. Chipmunk tails are thinner, and chipmunk beastkin are totally less cute than squirrel beastkin. Yeah, he must be referring to someone else.
“Lucia! Fluffytail! If you don’t cease this instant, I will skin you alive and feed your remains to your sword spirit!”
Oh, so he was talking about me. “I’m part squirrel, you know? Not chipmunk.” Mm. The man in the sky looks angry. It’s probably because no one else did as well as me during this test. Update the leaderboards! I want to see how many points I got. Another thousand? That’d be nice. …Why isn’t it updating? “Hey, Mr. Flying Target, what about the test results?”
“I hate this job,” the man in the sky said. “The world should just burn. Let the plant devils overrun everything, I don’t care. Next generation? Forget it.” He exhaled. “Calm down, Cain. Calm down. It’s just a stupid chipmunk”—
—“lady. A stupid squirrel lady. You don’t have to let her get under your skin like this, yeah? Okay. Great. You’re doing great, Cain.”
Wait, didn’t he say something super ominous just now. Something about plant devils? But that’s not even the most pressing issue! “The leaderboar—dgh!?”
Ilya stuffed something in my mouth! “Please, stop talking.”
This, this—! Oh, it’s a cookie. Is it made with acorn flour? When did Ilya get something like this and how come she hasn’t been sharing it with me? It’s not bad at all—pretty tasty. I deserve it after all that hard work I did during that last test. I sent out over two thousand Breaking Blades, not counting Durandal’s.
“In one minute, the fourth part of the competition will begin,” the man in the sky said. “It’s a simple test of comprehension. No attacking allowed! Instant disqualification for anyone who breaks the rules, understood!?”
Comprehension? Like learning a new skill? I’m good at that; this should be easy. A tablet fell from the sky and landed by my feet. What’s this?
“The technique you’ll be comprehending is written down on the tablet in front of you. There must be utter silence; anyone who speaks will be disqualified. You have one hour. Begin.”
What’s with the impossible exams!? I can’t read!