The students glanced around, trying to figure out who Delph was referring to. Slowly and suspiciously, kids started heading towards the arena exit. Several of them left while looking over their shoulder in case the strange professor suddenly changed his mind.
Nolan and Reena glared at Damien as they left and it became apparent that he had no inclination of joining them. Damien paid them no mind. The only ones remaining after the exodus were Damien, Sylph, Mark, and a tall bald boy from the other group.
“So,” Delph said. “You four managed to spot me. How many of you have experience with your magic?”
Everyone other than Damien raised their hand. Delph started to nod, but paused when he realized Damien hadn’t just been slower than everyone else.
“You haven’t used magic at all?” Delph asked, actually sounding somewhat impressed.
“Just runes,” Damien said. Delph’s expression showed that he wasn’t particularly impressed with that explanation.
“Very well. For those of you that did use magic – I assume you felt my presence disturbing the Ether around me?”
All three of them nodded.
“Good. I allowed some of my energy to leak out. You’ll learn to control that soon enough. However, I’m curious about you, my scarf wearing student,” Delph said, stepping towards Damien. “How did you spot me?”
“I followed Sylph’s gaze,” Damien replied, doing his best not to flinch at the professor’s cold stare.
Delph blinked. Then he burst into laughter. It was short lived and he quickly recomposed himself. The professor shook his head.
“Ah. That would do it, wouldn’t it? I suppose there’s something to be said for being observant, even if you have no magic. However, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to include you in this next assignment.”
“That’s fine,” Damien said, trying and failing to hide the disappointment in his voice.
“Now, for the rest of you,” Delph said. “I’ve been told that some students already have a few years of experience with their magic. That some students think they know better than their professor. Therefore, I’ll be extending an offer to you all. In exactly ten seconds, I am going to attack all of you. If you can draw a single drop of blood, I’ll buy you lunch for the rest of the semester. However, if you all lose, you do exactly as I say until the end of this year.”
The air around Delph warped and turned hazy. It seemed to crumple, almost as if the man had his own gravitational pull that was breaking the reality around him. Damien backed away, suddenly happy that he hadn’t been included in the exercise.
“Watch closely,” Henry instructed. “You can learn a lot about how to fight from watching those better than you.”
“I’m not an idiot,” Damien muttered, forgetting to think the words internally and, in my opinion, immediately proving himself wrong.
Mark was the first of the three students to make a move. He traced a line in the air with his sword tip. The blade of his sword shimmered as greenish brown flame bloomed from the hilt and covered the entire weapon.
He dropped into a crouch, holding the blade with one hand and placing his other on the ground. Without an instant of hesitation, he dashed forward. Mark closed the distance between him and Delph within a second.
His blade left a trail of flame in the air as he swung it at the professor’s side. Delph twisted his body, allowing the blade to pass mere inches away from his chest, and drove his knee up into Mark’s nose.
Mark let out a cry and staggered backwards. The light on his sword flickered, but it reignited as the boy refocused. A trial of blood started to trickle out of his nose and down his face.
“You have magic that requires concentration to keep active,” Delph observed, making no move to continue pressing the boy. “If your defenses aren’t better, your magic will fail you at a critical juncture.”
Mark bared his teeth in a feral snarl and dashed towards Delph again. He swung his sword for the man’s chest again. Mark pulled the blade back moments before it got close to the professor, converting his momentum into a new strike aimed at the professor’s legs.
Delph leapt into the air, jumping clean over Mark’s strike. His leg snapped forward in a brutal kick that picked Mark off the ground and sent him tumbling across the ground. He didn’t get back up.
“Next,” Delph said, turning to look at Sylph and the bald student.
Sylph watched him silently, not moving. The bald student, realizing that the girl had no plans of fighting yet, took a step forward. He lowered into a fighting stance and curled his fingers into claws.
Delph remained in position as the boy let out a heavy breath. A puff of thick white steam escaped his mouth and curled up around him.
Then he exploded forward. The bald boy moved so quickly that he made Mark look like a slug. He appeared beside Delph and thrust his hand towards the professor’s stomach.
Delph’s hand shot out and he grabbed the boy by his wrist. Then his eyes widened and he hopped a step back, releasing him.
“That almost hurt,” Delph said, frowning. A small trail of smoke rose up from the professor’s hand. “Just how hot is your body?”
“Very hot, professor,” the bald student replied. His clothes had started to smoke as well. “I’ve never gotten a chance to measure it, but I do have runed clothes to resist the heat.”
“We’ll have to find out at a later date,” Delph said. The air between him and the bald student seemed to crumple, and then Delph was standing before the student. It wasn’t that he’d moved quickly – it didn’t look like he’d moved at all.
“Teleportation,” Henry said. “I believe mortals consider it quite difficult.”
The bald boy doubled over as something slammed into his stomach. He suddenly launched several feet into the air, then slammed back into the ground as if an invisible hand was tossing him around.
“I yield!” the boy yelled. He collapsed to the ground with a groan as Delph turned to Sylph.