I apologize for getting off schedule with my chapter releases. I got super busy last weekend and now I’m coming down with a cold (I don’t think it’s covid but I should get tested).
Hopefully, I’ll be back on track by next Friday. I really like staying to a schedule so it pains me to fall off like this but I think I also need the time to reset. I’ve been neglecting the comments and going back to edit things readers have suggested. I apologize for that and will get on top of that soon. I should have more free time at the end of this month so hopefully, I can make up for this with some extra chapters.
Thank you for continuing to read this story. I’ll be back soon.
“WEEELLCOME back to Gundry Arena!! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the day we’ve all waited for: The. Last. Demoniclast. Trial!!!”
Freya covered her ears. The contestants around her also winced. The small roped-off section she stood in only contained nineteen boys and girls. From the hundreds of individuals that participated in the first trial, only eighteen others had made it this far. Judging from yesterday’s practice session, Freya guessed twelve of them had the potential to pass this final trial.
“Each competitor will face off against a member of the demoniclast. But don’t worry! They don’t have to win the fight! However, they must win approval from our veteran demoniclast committee to pass!”
A spotlight lit a long table with five seated demoniclasts. The crowd cheered even louder. She heard a mix of names shouted.
Ah, so this is how they’re passing it off to the general public, Freya thought. Daveth had told her she needed to use qi in battle against a demoniclast. It would be a relatively fast and boring fight that that demoniclast could determine. But to make it more dramatic and appealing, they added this extra element.
“Each committee member has a green card and a red card. If they hold up the green card, it means they approve! The red card means they oppose. To pass, a competitor needs at least four out of five green cards!”
The committee was situated on the opposite side of the arena from Freya and the other contestants. They were too far away for her to read their names, but she recognized one of them by his green ID screen.
“Let’s introduce our committee members! On the far left, we have Ysella Elys!”
The spotlight shifted to a petite, middle-aged woman. She stood and gracefully waved to the crowd. Then the announcer called the one member Freya identified immediately.
“Next, Kamdale Tolan!”
The player demoniclast rose from his chair. There were quite a few cheers for him, but it was relatively quiet compared to the upcoming clamor the middle demoniclast received.
“And, at the center, Indrek Penhale!!”
The thunderous applause from the crowd made the announcer pause before continuing. Freya remembered Indrek for his high game level, but she wondered what he did to be so widely acknowledged. After introducing the remaining committee members, the announcer drummed up the crowd for the first contestant.
“Jensina Carlsdor was the first to pass the second trial! Will she also be the first to pass this last trial?!?!”
I should have told Nightscythe to make a bet for me, Freya thought, resting her chin on her hand. Her “brother” was somewhere in the crowd watching. Out of the nineteen of them, Freya thought Jensina was the most likely to pass. Even more likely than herself. On the first day of their practices, the tall girl already demonstrated she knew how to use qi. Plus, based on the second trial, Jensina knew how to use a sword as well. Freya was confident in her own qi control, but her swordsmanship was a different story.
Jensina picked up a wooden sword and walked confidently to the center of the arena. The crowd cheered while the announcer recapped her fight in the second trial. Her demoniclast opponent bowed to her, and she returned the bow.
They stood, weapons at the ready. Another demoniclast stood off to the side of them, refereeing. He raised one hand.
The demoniclast didn’t move. Jensina hesitated and only circled. The crowd jeered her on. Finally, she struck. In a flash, the demoniclast blocked her attack.
Undeterred, the girl continued with a flurry of attacks. She lunged back and forth, each time almost seeming to hit her opponent. However, each time the demoniclast thwarted it.
The sound of the wooden sword hitting each other rose above the roar of the crowd.
Freya pursed her lips. Sitting this far away, there was no way she could tell if any of Jensina’s attacks had qi behind them. She assumed all demoniclasts knew about the Qi Armor technique Daveth had taught. So, she couldn’t rely on the demoniclast’s reaction to tell if Jensina successfully used a qi-enhanced attack.
What if her first attack had qi behind it? Maybe they’re just continuing on for show? Or has she really not landed a hit with qi in it yet?
As Jensina circled, Freya got a clear view of her face. She didn’t appear calm or confused. Sweat poured down her face. Her stern expression only focused on the demoniclast. Jensina’s shoulders rose up and down from her heavy breathing. She closed her eyes for a moment then rushed forward.
Their swords locked together. Pushing against each other, Jensina let out a yell. The crowd clamored at the scene.
The stalemate continued until the demoniclast gave an extra push, then struck violently back. Jensina’s sword fell from her hand.
The referee demoniclast rushed in to stand between them.
“And that’s it folks! That was quite a fight!” the announcer’s voice boomed. “What does our committee think?”
Freya carefully watched the demoniclast Jensina had fought against. He stood with his back to her but facing the committee. She noticed all the committee members seemed to be considering Jensina while also looking in his direction. The demoniclast scratched his right shoulder. The movement appeared natural, but suddenly all the committee members started reaching for the cards on the table.
The announcer called on each of them individually to reveal their choice. Freya’s heart dropped when the first committee member gave a red card. But the rest gave all green cards.
“Congratulations, Jensina Carlsdor! Jensina is this year’s first demoniclast apprentice!”
Freya clapped numbly along with the rest of the arena. Jensina smiled brightly and waved to the crowd. As the next competitor headed down to the ring, Freya shifted restlessly in her seat.
That demoniclast definitely gave some sort of signal. But at what point did she pass? That was a long fight. I’m going to embarrass myself if I have to fight with a sword for that long. Will they go easy on me if I just show I can use qi immediately?
Stomach turning, Freya sat through the next few fights. All the competitors that passed showed good competence with a sword. Those that did not end up passing looked clumsy in comparison.
Before she knew it, all the competitors around her were gone. Finally, the announcer was calling for Frey Evenkey.