The Pupil Tournament had simply been treated as a children's festival, but the competition ended up being at this level!
The mouths of the audience members at the stadium began to move busily. Some of them gave a good evaluation to Theo, who had opened with a heated attack. His explosive power had grabbed the spirits of all the spectators in the stadium.
"That child on the left, did you say his name is Theodore? That first attack was really good. If it was another participant instead of Sylvia, he might've taken two points."
"Blaze Shell and Gale Force… It is a basic teaching in the Red Tower. The skill proficiency of Vince's disciple isn't bad."
"If his achievements accumulate, then he can reach the Average rank."
However, Sylvia's moves also caused a few people to talk.
"Hrmm, but I would put the Liquid Snake at a higher level. Some of the Blue Tower Magicians wouldn't be able to control it with such skill."
"As expected from Blundell's apprentice. Distracting the opponent's eyes with ice arrows and then sliding along the ice sheet for high-speed movement, followed by a blow with the staff in close combat. It is Blundell's famous hand combat style."
"I think that using fighting techniques in a magic contest is a bit… but her opponent did lose a point to it."
A person who didn't know real magic might say something like this.
-No matter how magical a person is, isn't it strange to treat a weapon hit as valid?
Then every war magician would give the same answer.
–That's right, if you are someone who wants to be hit. Either way, there is nothing strange about it.
It might seem quite ignorant, but it was true.
Magicians basically had to keep an eye on the distance from their opponent in a battle.
How much space did they have to cast and what magic could be prepared? The magicians had to take into account the opponent's movement speed and the range in which they would be a risk. Such precious calculations were the basis of all magic before the spells were cast.
Magicians knew better than anyone else that they were vulnerable in close combat. Therefore, they would prepare a few spells or tactics to prepare for enemies who were nearby.
If they were hit by a close combat attack, then the inexperience of the magician or the skill of the opponent was to blame. However, it wasn't just a matter of questioning the magician's experience or skill.
Blundell had a rare expression of surprise on his face as he looked at the interesting match.
"…I remember that magic."
Blundell Adruncus, the Blue Tower Master, was over 130 years old this year.
The days with the war hero, Alfred Bellontes, had just been part of his youth. In fact, Blundell had fought in the war against the Bellontes Principality. The feeling of the chill which shot down his spine as the blue flash emerged from the finger was still vivid.
Blundell hadn't died at the time, but his wound throbbed every time it rained like that time.
With a flick of Blundell's fingers, Vince and the surrounding area were covered with a sound barrier. It was a magic curtain which combined air and water to block the transmission of sound. Blundell, who took care not to let the conversation between the two of them leak, looked at where Vince was sitting.
"Alfred's Magic Missile, did you reproduce it?"
"No. It is that kid's talent."
"…Um, 'Fire Killer Vince' truly has great eyes at recognizing talent."
The fact that a sound barrier had been activated meant Blundell didn't want the words to spread. Above all, he didn't have a need to exploit a mere child. Vince answered Blundell's questions honestly, quickly distinguishing between the information to hide and the information to reveal.
Blundell knocked on his wallet and muttered in a loud voice, "Indeed, I accept your bet. If he has that much skill, then there is a chance he could win."
Theodore's victory or Sylvia's victory…
The betting odds over who would win increased significantly thanks to these two magicians. In addition to Vince's 100 gold and Blundell's 300 gold, the total was close to 1,000 gold.
For the most part, the bets were placed on Sylvia's victory. However, some people chose to bet on Theodore in the hope of getting a big jackpot. If they won, they would get back almost six times the amount they bet.
However, Blundell wasn't focused on the stakes.
"…Too much talent makes people lonely."
"Sylvia, that kid isn't good at making friends. She was clearly different, so the other children ignored her."
His words weren't a commentary but a complaint. Blundell, who was her only family and teacher, couldn't solve her loneliness. Despite being 17, his disciple had lost all traces of being a child.
Perhaps the Blue Tower's youngest talent had been blocked from reaching the 5th Circle due to this 'psychological wall.' However, the wall was now collapsing in several places.
'How is it? Is it fun playing with a friend?'
Was it because he had raised her as his daughter? His words might sound stupid, but they weren't completely wrong. Her smiling face which she had never shown to him…
Looking down at Sylvia who was smiling brightly, Blundell couldn't help smiling as well.
"Yes, try to play as much as possible."
…Until she got all the joy that she had forgotten in the past.
* * *
Regardless of the situation in the audience seats, the match between the two got hotter after both had lost one point.
Dozens of fire arrows flew through the air. It was a continuous magic which would burn the enemy it hit. Similarly, there were ice arrows which emitted a cold chill. As the bluish lightning struck, the translucent shield of water scattered electric currents everywhere.
Sylvia's magic didn't miss the moment the ground became wet.
Icicles sprang from the ground and a wave of earth covered it. The weak weight of the icicles were suppressed by the weight of the soil, and they were soon buried. However, the girl with silver hair made an ice road on the ground again.
'I'm sorry, but I've already seen that pattern!' The speed was obviously scary, but once Theo knew the direction, it wasn't hard to cope with.
He followed Sylvia's orbit with his index finger. Reversing the opponent's offensive was also a tactic. The Magic Bullet could break through any trick. Magic Bullet was launched from his finger.
The flash of light flew through the air faster than an arrow, piercing the side of Sylvia's robe. Sylvia grinned as she spoke, "…That, you showed me earlier."
Theodore wasn't the only one who had grasped the opponent's skill.
The Magic Bullet's weakness: avoidance was possible in a narrow area. As a result of specializing in penetration power and lethality, the small coin size was easy to avoid. The direct injection method also influenced the way it worked.
The original user, Alfred, had covered that weakness with tremendous speed, but Theodore's Magic Bullet was still lacking. Sylvia used Haste and outstanding reflexes to barely avoid it. This meant she expected it to come out.
Sylvia's staff hit Theo only for him to scatter like smoke.
It was Illusion Track! This was the skill Theo had obtained from 'Night Prowler's Mirage.' Night Prowler's Mirage produced a lifelike illusion of the user. The precision was as great as its reputation, fooling Sylvia easily.
Theo didn't miss that gap and created a pit.
Sylvia hadn't regained her balance and fell down as three stone spears protruded. As a precautionary measure, Theo had prepared the pit and Ground Spear trap in case of a frontal attack. The fact that she managed avoid two of the spears was praiseworthy. However, she couldn't avoid the spear which rose up in her blind spot.
In the end, the spear stuck in her back and shattered the second crystal. Theo was one point ahead, but he wasn't careless and retreated a few steps.
It was because she was likely to counterattack. This time, the traps worked well, but it was unlikely that Sylvia would fall for it again. Unsurprisingly, she ran out of the pit wildly.
'She's coming. Don't turn your eyes away from her. Sylvia's first movement will be—'
Previously, she had used the ice arrows and steam to create a smoke screen. He had taken his eyes off her for a moment, and she had borrowed the speed of the ice road. If Theo kept a close eye on her, then he would be able to cope with whatever Sylvia did. Theo's eyes became gold due to Hawkeye, and he concentrated in front of him.
At that moment, Sylvia suddenly stopped moving.
An icicle jumped out from behind, suddenly piercing Theo's back. It was at the exact same spot which Sylvia had been struck just before. She used a surprise attack from the rear as well! One of the crystals hanging from Theodore's robe broke.
However, there was something else which was painful.
'This girl, has she been watching my skills and tactics…?'
Even though Sylvia was one step ahead when it came to magic deployment, Theo was ahead of other in this area. She lacked experience as a war magician, so she was lacking when it came to useful applications of magic and proper timing. It was how he stayed a few steps ahead of her despite her genius.
However, she was absorbing even that at a terrifying speed.
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This was the first time he had encountered someone with an equal learning ability among his peers.
* * *
On the contrary, the girl was pleased.
'This person doesn't hate me. He isn't afraid. Furthermore, he is continuously surprising me with magic.'
It was the first time Sylvia had encountered such a thing. The boy in front of her contained no feelings of jealousy or disgust. He was a peer who could unexpectedly compete at the same level as her.
'So much fun!'
The clear smile she had lost during childhood appeared on Sylvia's face.
Since childhood, there had been no child who approached her. Her rare silver hair and beautiful appearance had incited jealousy in the hearts of the other girls in her village. Additionally, even though Sylvia wasn't of noble birth, her natural genius in magic had created a vague situation where her status had been unclear. If it hadn't been for Blundell stopping by her village by chance, her talent might've been buried before it had the chance to blossom.
–Why is she speaking so incomprehensibly?
–Isn't she just trying to show off?
–Tell me if you don't want to teach me. Don't lie.
–You are innately different from us. You are a genius. How about finding a genius like you and playing with them instead?
Someone had been jealous…
Someone else had hated her…
Someone had misunderstood her…
And someone else had turned away from her.
Thus, Sylvia closed off her mind before she got hurt. She gave up on trying to approach others and forgot to extend her hand first.
Blundell and the other elders of the Blue Tower took care of her, but they couldn't take the place of a friend. Their age limited them to being parents. Therefore, the wall in her mind which she had built up since childhood became a 'real wall' which interfered with her reaching the 5th Circle.
Had it already been a few years since she'd stopped in place?
Theo reached out to her from beyond the collapsed wall.