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Episode 104 – The Fire
The day of the practical exams is finally here and Kiel is inside a large arena created by the Replica Dungeon. Kiel and Nelaira manage to defeat their opponents. Rhur uses Razorblood petals to slice the neck of his opponent open. Kiel and Rhur decide to each take one opponent, however, they can’t agree on which opponent to pick. They end up bickering, neither one wanting to fight Deora. Nelaira tricks Deora into attacking the Rroda brothers, and Deora ends up pursuing Kiel with a barrage of fireb.a.l.l.s. Kiel runs away, dodging the fireb.a.l.l.s, however, Deora manages to hit him with an explosive airball.
The moment the airball slammed into Kiel’s shield, Deora set it on fire.
What followed was a scene from an apocalypse.
The invisible ball ignited, and flames rapidly spread outwards making it look as if a flower was blooming. Looking like a miniature sun, it expanded and expanded until it swallowed everything.
The explosion left a large crater around the epicenter, the blast shaking the whole stadium. The earth around the impact point cracked and disintegrated, and a large mushroom of dust and vapor rose into the air.
The blast was so loud that it caused people present to temporarily lose their sense of hearing. The shockwave reached even Rhur and Nelaira, pushing them back and suspending their fight.
Even Deora, who was prepared for the explosion, was sent tumbling backwards.
Yet, Kiel who was in the center of the explosion had it the worst. His earth shield disintegrated into nothingness as if it was made out of thin paper. The force from the explosion hit Kiel hard, shaking all his internal organs and sending him flying like a flame arrow with blood leaking from the corner of his mouth, his body enveloped in flames.
As he slammed hard into the ground, he coughed out a mouthful of blood, and his consciousness blanked out.
* * *
If despair had a color it would be orange.
A boy no older than six stared around himself with wide eyes. Those big beautiful eyes were usually icy blue, but today, one could see no blue in those large eyes. Their usual icy blue had been completely covered up by an orange reflection of flames.
Yellow sparks rose into the air, flame tongues licked his feet.
The crackling of fire was all he could hear.
All color of the world had been drained, replaced by a sea of orange.
Everything had been swallowed up by the ocean of flames spreading as far as the eyes could see.
Orange. Orange. Everything was orange.
Fueled by the wooden furniture, the flames climbed from the upper floor down to the ground floor, gliding down the curtains, sliding down carpets.
The pretty potted flowers decorating the corridor were withering with speed visible to the naked eye. The sparks kept slowly torturing them, burning a hole after hole in their leaves.
The boy’s heart quivered as he noticed a special plant among them – the one his mother and him had planted together. He had watched it grow into a small bud, slowly sprouting leaves, and finally opening its flowers. Yet now, the plant they worked so hard to nourish was getting eaten alive by the insatiable flames, never to see the morning sun again.
The boy parted his cracked lips to scream for help, but his parched throat only managed to produce a weak whimper, followed by a violent coughing fit. The smoke entered his lungs like a slithering snake making him feel as if thousand of needles were p.r.i.c.king his lungs.
He coughed, he wheezed, his whole body quaked.
His chest constricted.
He couldn’t breathe.
His eyes were bloodshot. The smoke was stinging them so much that he could barely keep them open. Large teardrops slid down the side of his face, but before they could reach his chin, they would dry up from the heat leaving only a wet trail behind.
The boy’s usually white face had turned red, it was so hot one could fry an egg on it. Soot covered his round cheeks and arms, making him look unkempt.
His clothes that had long become soaked in sweat were constantly letting out steam, almost drying faster than the sweat could dampen them.
Each time a stray bead of sweat managed to reach the flames, they would let out an excited sizzle climbing higher, almost competing among themselves to devour it.
The fire wrecked his home to the point in which he barely recognized it. The pretty wooden house he had grown up in had turned into a cage threatening to swallow him forever.
His uneven footsteps paused when he reached the lobby. There, framed on the wall was a half-burned drawing full of holes that were slowly spreading.
He had drawn that picture after his first trip to the zoo. It was a picture of him, his mother, father, Clawy and all the animals he had seen in the zoo. Even though no one could recognize the species of the animals besides him, he had been very proud of the drawing. He had even finished coloring it completely, even though he usually got bored half way
Even his father had been extremely amazed when he had shown it to him for he was lost for words, looking at it with a strange expression.
Yet, now, the flames were slowly gobbling up everything. As if foretelling his future, the holes spread until they swallowed up his mother and father, even Clawy, leaving him alone in the center.
Disoriented, the boy stumbled among the flames. Each step he took caused a wave of pain to shoot towards his brain. The blood on his knees had dried making his pants stick to the wounds. With each stumble, his wounds would get torn open leaking fresh blood. And then, the heat would dry the blood making his pants stick to the wound.
The cycle repeated and repeated until he grew numb to the pain.
Agony. Terror. Despair. It drowned out all thought. The boy’s body moved based on pure instinct. Like a little, frightened animal, avoiding the debris, avoiding the flames, seeking shelter, seeking a way out.
His heart thumped hard inside his chest, overpowering all sound.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.
With every pa.s.sing second, his breaths became shorter, quicker, more rugged, more painful.
As his eyes landed on the doorway out of the house, his eyes widened, and his heart skipped a beat.
Yet just as the flicker of hope managed to ignite inside of him, the disaster struck, as if the G.o.ds themselves wanted to extinguish all hope.
The fire burned through a large plank on the ceiling making it fall down like a guillotine.
Adrenaline shot through the boy’s veins giving his tired limbs a sudden burst of strength. He ran forwards and fell, rolling on the ground.
He covered his little head full of damp, messy black hair with his sc.r.a.ped and blackened arms.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.
His heart thumped erratically.
The plank fell with a crash missing him by an inch. However, the cabinet next to him was not as lucky. The plank shattered it into pieces, the debris erupting everywhere.
The boy barely registered that he had been hit by the wreckage, his body was already growing numb to the pain.
When he removed his arms from his head, the first thing his eyes landed on was a familiar toy laying in front of him. It had been placed on top of the cabinet but fell when it shattered.
It was an action figure dressed in a Peacekeeper uniform.
“Arnold!” The boy cried. Arnold was more than just his favorite toy – he was his best friend. An upholder of justice, the nemesis of all bad guys. The two of them had gone on countless adventures together. From searching for ancient relics in the desert of a sandbox to getting lost in the jungle of gra.s.s.
Half of Arnold’s friendly, smiling face stared back at the boy eerily, the other half had already melted. The grinning face no longer looked amiable, but rather, unsettling. It was as if his best friend had been taken over by something sinister. The sight made the boy’s heart clench and quiver.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump!
Yet, the boy wasn’t willing to just abandon it. That was Arnold, his Arnold! He reached to pick him up but as soon as his fingers touched the toy, he let out a painful howl.
The toy scalded his fingers, fueling a fresh round of tears.
The boy sniveled, tears streaming down his cheeks, he cradled his burned hand, slowly etching backwards, away from the toy which continued to melt, staring at him with a wide smile the entire time.
Suddenly his other hand felt something soft and fluffy under it. His eyes moved down to see a familiar, beige bundle of fur under it.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump!
The boy’s eyes widened, and he shrieked. “Clawy!”
The bundle of fur was the boy’s pet lunar. It was a beige, striped feline that loved chasing a ball of yarn and sleeping under the warm sunlight.
Clawy didn’t respond to the boy’s call.
He called out to it again and again, but it didn’t move at all.
The boy’s eyes blurred with tears, and he crawled towards Clawy lying motionless among the rubble. “Please, somebody help! Clawy is hurt!! ”
Clawy must have been sleeping inside the cabinet. Clawy loved cabinet drawers. It would rummage through them, hide in them, and even sleep in them.
The boy pushed and pulled. The broken wood p.r.i.c.ked his hands. The agony of the scalded flesh getting p.r.i.c.ked made his vision turn dark several times.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.
It felt like an eternity of agony had pa.s.sed before he finally managed to pull Clawy free of the rubble.
The flames didn’t wait for him. They etched closer and closer. Grew taller and taller.
He scrambled to his feet, his small hands wrapped around the belly of the feline, holding it up clumsily. Clawy’s legs hung down lifelessly, almost reaching the floor, making it look like nothing more than a ragdoll.
He pulled the feline towards the door. It felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.
Clawy’s tail dragged across the floor like a duster behind them.
When the boy finally reached the door, he placed Clawy down to free his arms so he could pull the door open.
He grasped the metallic door handle only to scream his throat raw.
It was scalding hot, so, so agonizingly hot.
And worst still, the door refused to open.
It was locked.
He slammed his fists on the door.
He banged and banged.
But there was no one on the other side.
His eyes fell on the window next to the door and hope rekindled inside of him. He pulled his aching body towards the window and resumed to bang and bang.
He banged and banged until he had no strength to bang on it any longer.
He banged until his legs gave out and he slumped next to Clawy.
The window was reinforced with magic. How could a small child break it with his fists?
The boy stared through the window to the world outside.
He could see many moving silhouettes. There were people outside. They huddled together and ran around. They even threw some kind of spheres towards the house.
Yet, why is it that no one came to get him out?
Some of them stared right at him. He could see shock, pity, and anxiety on their faces. Some of them screamed something, but all of their voices blended together and he couldn’t make out what they were saying.
His vision had turned completely blurry, and his eyes were stinging so much that he could no longer keep them opened.
He closed his eyes, yet, not being able to see the flames brought him no comfort. He could feel them drawing closer. He could feel his flesh slowly starting to burn to the point in which his open wounds helped ease his pain, for the blood doused his burning flesh.
Helplessly, the boy huddled together with the furry creature and wailed.
He sniveled, hiccupped and coughed.
He cradled Clawy in his arms, swaying back and forward, and wept.
Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.
The only solace the boy could find came from the soft creature in his arms. He stroked Clawy’s beige fur that had turned several shades darker due to the smoke, hoping that Clawy would wake up soon.
He hoped that it would swish its tail left and right animatedly.
He hoped it would push its head towards his hand, asking to be petted.
He hoped it would rub itself against his feet and look at him with its big, yellow eyes.
Yet, the feline never again opened those glittering yellow eyes.
He called for his mother. He called for his father. He called for anyone.
And then he proceeded to beg for help.
Beg for someone to come. It didn’t matter who. Anyone would do.
And then his words became slurred from the tears to the point of becoming incomprehensible. His tongue dried up, no longer capable of wetting his cracked lips.
Still, he remained sitting there powerlessly, hugging a motionless feline in his arms.
Yet no one came for him.
Coming up in the next episode:
All his senses seemed to be compromised, unclear, failing.
Every attempt of moving brought him incomparable agony. He had been too close to the center of the explosion.
His mental state was nearing a collapse, his mana was moving around so chaotically that he had trouble controlling it.
A faint sound of footsteps entered his ear. Slowly, they were approaching him, getting louder and louder with each step.
Kiel had no time nor desire to ponder how he managed to survive the impact. He gritted his teeth, his hands feeling around for Elaru’s egg. He needed to buy some time to recover.
Is this the end?
“A pity. He is nowhere near Rhur Rroda’s level of ability.”
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