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After several seconds of silence, Kiel sighed again in resignation. “So be it. Let’s be allies.”
Elaru’s solemn expression brightened up instantly, her eyes glittered with happiness.
“For now.” Kiel added, but it didn’t manage to splash cold water on her excitement.
“Mates until the end!” She grinned and shook his hand, confirming the deal.
Kiel looked towards the horizon towards Muni, his heart feeling lighter than ever. Right now, he felt that even if he failed the exams, everything would be alright. The two of them would find a way. The responsibility wasn’t his alone to bear. They would bear it together.
Kiel chuckled huskily and glanced at Elaru teasingly. “No one can be invincible by themselves? Really? Not even you?” He teased.
Elaru grinned sheepishly. “Especially not me.”
“And here I thought you can do anything.” The corner of his lips twitched, threatening to become a smile.
Elaru giggled awkwardly. You have no idea how wrong you are…
“Elaru…” Kiel interrupted her chuckle with a soft voice.
“Mmm?” She murmured.
Kiel looked away from her, into the distance, purposefully avoiding her eye. “Thanks…”
His voice was so soft it was almost inaudible. Elaru didn’t say anything, the only sign that she heard it was the soft smile playing at her lips.
As they flew towards their destination, neither one noticed that their hands stood intertwined at their side. They neither noticed that their flying speed was slowly increasing nor did they notice a black vine twirling itself around Kiel’s hand, slithering on the top of his skin like a snake.
* * *
Rau Eryey thumped his fingers impatiently on the teacher’s desk while Kady Ailert sitting next to him stared worriedly at the clock on the wall of the cla.s.sroom.
Rau Eryey’s silver eyebrows furrowed. “We can’t wait for him any longer. It is time for us to receive the next group of examinees.”
Kady sighed in resignation, regret could be seen flickering in her eyes. “Ah, what a pity. To fall sick during the exams…” She sighed again. “Let’s wait a few more minutes, and if he still doesn’t arrive, we’ll invite the next group in.”
Rau shook his head. “It’s no use. No matter if it is a cold or the flu, since it has progressed to the point of him fainting, even if he was given the best medicine, it would still require half a day to reach full recovery.”
Rau Eryey was not only from the Eryey family that was a family of healers, but he, himself, was also a renowned healer. His words were authoritative in the matter.
“Common medicine won’t do, but don’t forget that he is a Rroda. If he manages to contact his family in time, they could feed him one of the more precious elixirs.” Kady mused.
Rau continued shaking his head. “The Rroda mainhouse is too far away. Without teleporting, it is impossible to cover the distance in time.”
The two stayed silent after that, watching the seconds ticking away.
After a while, Kady got up from her seat reluctantly. “Such a pity.” She murmured as she went to the cla.s.sroom entrance to invite the next batch of examinees.
She plastered on an amiable expression to greet the examinees and opened the door. The forced smile turned into pleasant surprise as she noticed a figure standing right in front of the door, with his hand up in the air, just about to knock on the door.
Kiel Rroda’s black and blue hair was a bit ruffled giving him a rebellious vibe. His pale blue eyes were calm, without any ripples, like the surface of a pool.
He was momentarily surprised when Kady opened the door, but soon he smiled apologetically and was about to explain, however, she interrupted him. “Quickly! Enter. We don’t have much time left.” Kady ushered him in gleefully.
Kiel let out an internal sigh of relief. So close!
If he came a minute later, it would have been too late. In fact, initially, he was sure that they wouldn’t make it. But when they arrived he realized that he had underestimated the speed they were traveling at.
He got the urge to give Elaru thumbs up, but she had flung him towards the door without bothering to remove her Invisibility, so currently he had no idea where she was. And besides, since he appeared out of thin air, the examinees gathered in front of the cla.s.sroom were already giving him strange looks, he didn’t want to encourage strange rumors by giving thumbs up to an invisible person.
Kiel quickly made his way towards the black, shiny cauldron in the center of the room. On the outside of the cauldron, in the middle, there was a handle in the form of an hourgla.s.s. To start the exam, Kiel needed to grasp the hourgla.s.s and twist it upside down.
That would activate the crystallizer and would also make the sand inside the hourgla.s.s start flowing. When the last grain of sand from the upper half of the hourgla.s.s disappeared, the crystallizer would power down, and the exam would be over.
Above the hourgla.s.s was a speedometer that would measure Kiel’s mana flow speed and provide a score based on his average mana flow and maximum achieved mana flow.
This crystallizer was specifically made for the exam, so its purpose wasn’t only to crystalize mana. It would also keep track of mana entering it and calculate the mana flow speed.
Mana Flow Speed was the speed at which the mage could transfer the mana from his soul to his aura, making it ready for usage. It was an important metric that could be used to determine how many spells the mage would be able to cast in a given time, how many spells the mage could sustain, and the mage’s theoretical maximum possible casting speed.
Kiel didn’t dally around and instantly turned the hourgla.s.s upside down. As soon as he did so, the markings on the cauldron lit up and the s.p.a.ce inside the cauldron twisted, creating a whirlpool.
To achieve the highest score possible for his Mana Flow Speed, Kiel needed to quickly reach the highest mana transfer speed his body and soul could handle and keep it up as long as possible.
Since Kiel had been mana tempering his body recently, he was aware of how much mana his body could handle so he didn’t slowly increase his mana channeling speed but started off from a high speed right away.
Kiel could tell that his and Elaru’s shared soul was very close because the soul tendrils connecting his body to the soul were numerous and thick, not stretched at all.
Like water flowing through pipes, his mana flowed from his mana pool through his soul tendrils into his body. Then it continued to flow through his flesh into the air around him, only to be sucked into the crystallizer by the whirlpool.
Kiel concentrated to the best of his ability, constantly increasing his mana flow speed until his body started aching and burning.
A huge whirlpool of mana surrounded him, like a tempest. The crystallizer greedily sucked in the whirlpool. Small glittering crystals started condensing inside the cauldron. Like plants they grew and grew, letting out a resplendent golden light.
The hand of the speedometer kept moving to the right. 15. 18. 20.
When the hand of the speedometer reached 20, it slowed down, as if indecisive. Each little twitch of the needle seemed to take forever.
Each twitch caused a new wave of pain to rack Kiel’s body. His every cell burned, yet stubbornly he refused to yield. I can still… go on!
He clenched his fists and grit his teeth, staring sharply inside the crystallizer, focusing all his attention on transferring his mana into the crystallizer as fast as possible.
The sharp pain made his entire body shake. The sand inside the hourgla.s.s seemed to take forever to slid down the bottleneck.22.
Although his body was bordering on collapse, burning and twitching painfully, his soul tendrils weren’t bloated at all. Not a single one of them snapped.
If his soul tendrils started snapping, it would mean that he had reached the highest mana flow speed that his soul could achieve. That he had achieved his highest potential and could no longer improve.
However, achieving one’s highest potential was almost impossible.
For most people, their bottleneck, the thing stopping them from achieving their highest possible mana flow speed, was their body.
In practice, the mana flow speed of the mage didn’t depend on the amount and size of the soul tendrils, but instead, was a combination of mana resistance and tolerance of the body.
Kiel’s mind and heart raced. His blood boiled as he remembered how many rare mana tempering elixirs and pills his brother had been given by the Rroda family while Kiel received none at all. His nails dug into his palms as he remembered how his brother had been allowed to use the mana tempering room inside the Rroda mainhouse whenever he wished, while Kiel was denied entry.
Fierce, unyielding light flashed in Kiel’s eyes. He refused to give up! He would reach the highest score even if it meant fainting under pressure!
He would show his family that he didn’t need their help!
Endlessly, mana flowed into the crystallizer showing no sign of slowing down. The blood slid down Kiel’s fingers slowly, however, before it could drip down to the floor, the intensity of the mana around it caused it to turn into red mist.
The glow of the crystallizer intensified, coupled by the constantly growing golden glow of the crystals, it covered up the red mist that started seeping out of Kiel’s 7 orifices.
Kiel placed his fists on the table on which the crystallizer was sitting to hold his body up from slumping down on the ground.
He watched the speedometer intently with bloodshot eyes.
When the needle landed on the highest number, a boom reverberated inside Kiel’s mind, and he swallowed down the mouthful of blood that threatened to come out.
He exhaled a breath he didn’t know he was holding and finally slowed down the river of mana threatening to consume him.
His hot breath turned into smoke when it reached the air. The smoke glittered with a pink color of blood crystals.
Although Kiel’s body shook in pain, his mouth morphed into a radiant smile. He barely registered the pain as endless glee erupted inside his heart.
The changes to his body caused by the Aetherneal bond lowered the mana resistance of his body and increased its mana tolerance significantly. The mana tempering he had performed increased it further, slightly improving his body each time. And the cherry on top was the Firebird Flame Pill he had consumed. Its effects were downright miraculous.
When he thought about how many different elixirs and pills his brother had consumed over the years, it caused Kiel to chuckle inwardly. All those expensive things paled in comparison to a single Firebird Flame Pill. Where on Halnea did Elaru get such a miraculous pill?
Kiel shook his head. His body still wasn’t as adept at channeling mana as his brother’s. When his brother took the exam, he didn’t need to cause damage to his body to reach 25 points.
But Kiel wasn’t dispirited because of that, his current goal wasn’t to surpa.s.s his brother. It was to reach 25 points.
Kiel focused once again at the crystallizer in front of him. Now that he had reached 25 points in Mana Flow Speed test, the speedometer won’t drop down even if his mana flow speed lowered. All he had to do now was to ace the second part of the test, which tested Mana Pool size and Mana Regeneration.
He would need to condense as large of a crystal as he could.