This tablet … makes no sense whatsoever. What the heck is this language? Is there even anyone here that can read this? Judging by the looks on people’s faces, they can’t decipher it either. What’s Lucia doing? Is, is she licking it? Did she figure something out? I have reservations about eating food that fell on the ground, but for the sake of this exam…. Who am I kidding? There’s no way I’m going to lick this tablet. Absolutely none.
Ah! Daniel’s licking the tablet! And now Mirta! Everyone’s gone crazy! Sounds of slurping and disgust filled the air. Don’t tell me this is how you’re actually supposed to comprehend the tablet. There’s no way Cain would test us like this, right? And I refuse to believe Lucia figured something out! But … everyone else is licking it. …Just one taste won’t hurt. Blech, it tastes like cabbage.
What was that? It sounds like rocks being ground up. Wasn’t there supposed to be utter silence? Of course, it’s Lucia. She’s eating the tablet now!? And Cain’s acting like this is perfectly normal! Could comprehension be digestion? Did Lucia actually figure out the exam before anyone else in this room? Let’s try reading the words one more time. This character with the squiggly part, I’ve seen it before, but where? Doesn’t it resemble the way mana flows through my heart transformation point if it’s the third part of a spell? If each of these characters are pictures of mana flows, then—
Utter silence, people. Utter silence! Why the heck is that lionkin eating the tablet too!? Calm down, Ilya. If each of these characters are pictures of mana flows, then this could represent the fire attribute. This one would be wind. Would this be light? It kind of feels similar to the way mana flows in my head. Now that I think about it, does mana flow the same way for everyone? What about the people who fight with qi? How are they supposed to figure this out? I’m not sure if I’m on the right track anymore. But—
Mirta, you’ll break your teeth if you eat that! It can’t be that I’ve fallen under an illusion spell, right? Is this the actual test of comprehension, whether or not you can see through an illusion? Maybe I—
“I understand!” someone shouted and stood up. “This is an illusion! There’s—”
“Disqualified,” Cain said. He flicked his finger and the man who had just shouted disappeared.
…Was that also part of the illusion? To throw me off track? Am I thinking about this too much? It’s okay, Ilya. Trust in your senses. Follow the previous train of thought with the images and mana flows. …But it’s very hard to do that with everyone eating their tablet! It’s like studying in a room full of people chewing with their mouths open. This is absolutely infuriating. What happened to the utter silence rule? Ugh, whatever. I’ll just circulate my mana in accordance to the pictures.
But how is it read? Left to right like human books, top to bottom like the fae’s, or right to left like demons’? It’s possible that it’s not even read in either of those manners; then I’ll plot out every one of those paths for my mana to flow and pick the one that makes the most sense. Left to right requires mana to flow from the head directly to the toes which seems highly inefficient. That automatically filters out right to left as well. Top to bottom then? Or bottom to top. There’s still fifty minutes left according to the timer in the sky that Cain created. I’ll definitely comprehend this tablet!
And people are still eating their tablets. Ignore everyone else, I have to believe in myself! …But a quick check on what Lucia’s doing wouldn’t hurt. …She’s sitting on a couch and drinking hot chocolate while Puppers is massaging her feet. Unbelievable. Forget it, maybe this really is an illusion and comprehending the tablet will reveal a spell that dispels it.
Twenty minutes later, I figured out the most efficient route. But there was a slight problem with it. The spell requires someone to have at least six circles since it circulates through the head six times. Is it possible everyone was given a different tablet suitable for their level of cultivation? I’d check someone else’s, but everyone ate theirs! Literally every single person except for me ate their tablet; and it looks like they’re meditating while trying to hold down vomit. This vaguely reminds me of the time I took a test with my peers and everyone took out measuring tools, but I had no idea what they were using them for. I don’t want to talk about the results of that test.
Ah, forget it. With my results in the first part of the competition, I’ll definitely be in the top hundred even if I get zero points on this portion. I’ll just try to cast the spell. It seems like I’ll have to rely on some bones of strength. It’s a good thing I didn’t use all of them while attacking the pillar. I had wanted to, but I felt like I’d die if I stacked anymore of those spells. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t cast it right now. This is just comprehension. Surely Cain will ask us to demonstrate what we comprehended. Then I’ll just memorize and simulate the mana flow until time’s up.
Thirty minutes later, Cain clapped his hands. Everyone opened their eyes and looked up. “Alright,” Cain said, “I’m extremely curious. Why the hell did all of you eat your tablets?”
Everyone turned their heads to stare at Lucia, but she had her eyes closed with a line of drool leaking out of her mouth. …She’s asleep.
“You,” Cain said and pointed at a random man. “Tell me.”
“W-well,” the man said and swallowed. “I’m just a commoner, sir. I can’t read, so there was no way for me to comprehend anything on the tablet. But that girl, she got first place in the attack and defense portions, so I copied her. And everyone else was doing it, so if I didn’t, then wouldn’t I fall behind?”
Lucia sat up the instant the man pointed at her. She blinked and looked around before looking at Puppers. It seemed like they were communicating silently.
“And how was it? Did you comprehend anything?” Cain asked. Was it just me, or did he look like he wanted to murder someone?
“N-no, sir,” the man said and lowered his head.
Cain snorted and glared at Lucia. “It’s you again. Why is it always you?” he asked. “Tell me, why did you eat your tablet? You’re the one who started it. If it weren’t for your actions, no one else would have the moronic thought to actually eat their tablets!” His head swiveled to meet everyone’s gazes. “That’s right. Each and every one of you is an idiot.” Then he glanced at me. “Except for you.”
It’s a really, really good thing I didn’t fall for the peer pressure.
“So what do you have to say for yourself, Lucia Fluffytail?”
“The thing vaguely smelled like acorn flour, so I licked it, and it actually tasted like acorn flour!” Lucia nodded. “So I ate it.”
Cain’s eye twitched. “And did you comprehend anything?”
“Yes!” Lucia said, bobbing her head up and down. She actually did!?
Cain waited, but Lucia didn’t say anything. “And?” he asked. “What was it?”
Lucia stuck her chest out as if she were proud of her actions. “I realized the acorn flour was actually on my fingers from before and had nothing to do with the tablet!” Oh my lord. I knew she was a simple person, but … this is going a little too far. “But since I ate the tablet, there was nothing I could do to change that. And you already said that there’s no way I’d lose first place in the preliminary, so I decided to take a nap.”
Cain’s expression darkened. He looked at me. “For not being an idiot, you get three thousand points. It doesn’t matter if you actually comprehended anything or not; apparently, you’re a goddam genius compared to everyone else here.”
Lucia’s eyes widened as my name appeared on top of hers on the leaderboard. “Ah! You lied! You said I would be first!”
I won by default? “C-can I try casting the spell I comprehended?” I’m ashamed to win this way. I have to prove myself legitimately!
Cain furrowed his brow. “You actually figured out a spell?”
Was I not supposed to? Is this an example of keeping your mouth shut to not seem like a fool? “Y-yes. At least, I think I did.”
“Go on then,” Cain said. “I’m curious.”
Alright, here goes nothing! I’ve simulated it thirty times and nothing seemed wrong, so it should definitely bring about a result. Two bones of strength should be enough. Follow the flow, keep it steady, consume a bone, reverse this portion of mana, circulate it back towards my head, consume another bone, circulate it down to my hands, then back to the head, then back to my hands, and I’m done! Like I thought, it’s a spell that requires the use of my palms related to the light element. “Light, don’t fail me now, show me your power!”
Mana surged through my body as I pointed my hands at the sky. Two beams of light shot out of my palms, creating massive white pillars that extended as far as the eye could see. Cain moved forward and approached the beams. He placed a black stick halfway into one of the pillars. When he withdrew the stick, half of it was gone. Well, I expected the spell to be more than just a giant flashlight. Four circles of fire and five circles of lightning were necessary to create this!
“Not bad, not bad at all,” Cain said once the pillars disappeared. “This concludes the preliminary rounds. These are the final results.” He gestured towards the scoreboard. I’m first place? “Everyone with more than zero points have the right to participate in the Godking’s Brawl. The top hundred people…, I promised rewards, didn’t I? Your reward is simple: You’ll be given seeded positions in the upcoming brawl like the sixty people with guaranteed spots.”
“That’s it?” Lucia asked. “What the heck?”
“You were expecting more?” Cain asked. “Why did you even participate in the preliminary if you were guaranteed a spot?”
“I wasn’t paying attention and came here instead of the spectator’s area,” Lucia said with a nod.
Cain took in a deep breath through his nose. Then he exhaled a breath of black smoke through his mouth. “Everyone’s dismissed. The Godking’s Brawl will begin tomorrow at noon.”