If Lucia wasn’t going to take our guaranteed spot, then it should’ve been given to me instead…. Why did she enter the competition grounds as well? Everyone already knows what she looks like due to the posters plastered all over the city, so all their eyes are going to be on her. It’s a good thing we’re in a massive crowd; it should be a little difficult to pick her out at least. Right?
Dozens of lights flashed as circles appeared on the ground. Was this part of the competition? From above, a giant screen displayed tons of spectators, all of them looking down on us. A few of them stood up and leapt towards us. Were they trying to enter the competition grounds? As their bodies hit the screen, the circles on the ground erupted with pillars of light. When the light dispersed, the people who had jumped were in front of us. What the heck!? Why did so many people with guaranteed spots decide to join the preliminary?
“Lucia Fluffytail!” a voice rang out as a beastkin with green scales growing on his arms and face pointed towards us with a spear in hand. “For the grievances against my blood brother, you must be punished.”
Wasn’t this snakelike person the crown prince of the beastkin kingdom? Don’t tell me his brother was the lionkin that Lucia nearly killed over stew. And how are lions and snakes even related at all? Unless, of course, their father was a promiscuous fellow with multiple wives. Ugh, that just leaves a massive headache for all the descendants fighting over the throne later.
“Lucia Fluffytail? That’s her?” a few voices murmured. The people stepped away, and the crowd parted as the nobles with guaranteed spots approached us. There were at least four dozen of them. How come they all forsook their spots? What if they failed the preliminary round and disappointed the nobles they were representing?
A few more whispers of Durandal, betrayer, and acorn stew drinker rang through the air. Before the nobles could reach us, a voice boomed throughout the competition grounds. “Silence. Everyone has gathered.” Floating above us, a demon with long red hair that flowed down to his lower back crossed his arms over his chest. He looked at us and furrowed his brow. “The fifty of you wish to compete in the preliminary as well? If you fail here, you won’t be able to partake in the brawl even with your seeded spot.”
Everyone looked up at the demon without saying a word. Sweat dripped to the ground, and a few people had even fallen to their knees. Lucia was frowning at the demon, her tail twitching rapidly. I whispered to her, “Is your tail stiff?”
“A little,” Lucia whispered back. “I didn’t think it’d ever stiffen again after reaching the divine realm. Mm, it’s a good thing Durandal didn’t let me slack off.”
“Very well then,” the demon above said. “Some of you may know me; my name is Cain Thunderfire, the host of this year’s Godking’s Brawl.” Ten circles appeared around his body, each of them golden in color. Hints of lightning and fire flickered around them, crackling like thunder. “There are some simple rules: no killing, stop when I say stop, and no magic tools allowed. Any questions?”
Lucia’s hand shot up into the air. “Question!” she shouted. Cain’s gaze landed on her. “What if there’s this really, really slimy bastard that I want to kill in this competition? Can I kill him anyway even if it breaks the rules?”
“You’ll be disqualified and judged by your respective empire’s laws,” Cain said.
Lucia frowned and furrowed her brow. “Oh! What if he’s just too weak and dies in one hit?” she asked, her tail perking up. “I’m super strong; and I’m not good at controlling my strength. Accidents happen all the time, right?”
Cain frowned. A few other people chimed in before he could say anything. Daniel’s voice was the clearest. “I agree with Lucia. Accidents happen all the time. How do we show off our abilities if we have to tread on eggshells? If I cast any seventh-circle spell right now, hundreds of these people would die. Am I supposed to limit myself? I’m willing to bet some people here can’t even survive a fourth-circle spell. What if I underestimate the opponent and limit myself too much, causing a loss?”
“You’re Daniel, the crown prince?” Cain asked. “What you say makes sense, but the competition is structured in such a way that killing another person will be very hard to do. You’ll see when it starts. I decided to modify it a bit compared to the previous decades’.”
“I understand,” Daniel said and nodded.
Lucia tilted her head. “So can I accidently murder him or not?” she asked and scratched her nose.
Cain sighed. “A judgment will happen if it comes to pass,” he said. “If you really must kill someone, make it look like an accident as much as you can.”
“Nice,” Lucia said and gave me a thumbs up. …Wasn’t her motto, ‘I’m not a murderer’?
“And without further delay, let the competition begin,” Cain said and waved his arm. A glass ball fell towards the crowd and landed in a beastkin’s hands. “The first test is simple—a measure of talent. Squeeze the glass and insert your mana or qi or both. If the orb lights up, you pass. If it doesn’t, you fail.”
I wonder how it works. Does it measure the amount of mana or qi you can produce and match it with your age? How would it even tell your age in the first place? Well, everyone has to pass the same test; it should be fair. One orb seems kind of slow though…. Oh, and there’s another. An orb fell towards my head, and I caught it before it hit me. Squeeze and insert mana. The orb lit up, and a second later, my surroundings distorted. I was no longer in the meadows but a gray flatland with nothing to be seen as far as the eye could see. A few others were with me—this was probably the next stage for those who passed?