Chapter 33:

Chapter 33: Let the Games Begin (Eve)

The Heir of the Dragon

“Eve! Eve, look! This place is so amazing!” Levi floated through the air as Eve entered the stadium, the small green girl admiring the large raised arches and rows upon rows of chairs. Eve maneuvered through the crowd of students towards the viewing box for the Stars Cohort, one of the benefits of her classmates fighting in the match.

“Eve! Over here!” Eve turned to see Mindy waving her over to an empty seat, Jasmine beside her. Eve gave a sharp nod and moved through the rows of seats, sitting with her friends as Levi floated down to sit beside her in an empty seat.

“Are you looking forward to the games?” Eve asked, a small smile on her face. She wasn’t good at small talk, but it was suitable for moments like this.

“Totally!” Mindy cheered. “Sabine’s gonna be, like, astounding!”

“Isn’t she just a Pawn?” Eve mused, raising her eyebrow. Mindy pouted.

“But she’s going to be the best Pawn!” Mindy insisted. “I still think that she should have been a Bishop! What’s Rayan ever done, anyway?”

“Rayan might not have Sabine’s… passion,” Eve acknowledged, “but his Control Magic is some of the best of the cohort. It’s really useful for a competition like this.”

“Eeeeh!? Eve is praising a boy?!” Levi gasped in disbelief. “Are you okay?! Do you have a fever?! MASTER! MASTER!”

Eve shot Levi a dirty look that must have confused Mindy and Jasmine. She flinched, giggling sheepishly.

“So, um… do you guys know how this is gonna work?” Mindy asked, staring at the raised tile stage of the stadium below them. “Because the way the professor described it, I thought they would be fighting in, like, some kind of battlefield, but… isn’t that a little cramped?”

As if to answer Mindy’s question, the large orica that lined the stadium lit up and a massive sphere of light appeared in the sky. The sphere displayed an image of a chamber containing within it labyrinthine obstacles and turns like a forest crafted by hand. Colored white and of scale that was hard to judge, it was a battlefield that Eve found astounding.

“How are we seeing this?!” Levi gasped. “It’s like master’s illusions!”

“This is so cool!” Mindy marveled. “But, like, what is it?”

“Image Magic,” Eve answered both her friends. “Our cohort leader must have transported our cohort members to that battlefield, and those orica are projecting it to us in the stands.”

As if to confirm Eve’s theory the image in the orica shifted to project a new picture, of the inside of the labyrinth’s tall walls. Magic circles spread out across the battlefield, and students from the Stars Cohort appearing in the circles on one side and students from the Clouds Cohort appeared in the others. Eve figured that this was an element of the game; the Kings, in their case, Lancelus, must have chosen starting positions for their pieces.

The game had begun!

Eve hadn’t participated in the Chess Game in order to avoid revealing the nature of her magic, but as she watched, part of her regretted that decision. It actually looked like a good deal of enjoyment was to be had. Multiple images were projected upon the orb so that the audience could get a good view of every aspect of the fight, and where the pieces were exchanging spells, and to their team’s fortune, they were ahead by a fair amount.

To prevent serious injury, each piece was given a wristband containing an orica. Should the orica be destroyed, the piece would be “captured”, and expelled from the battlefield with transportation magic. Eve figured that was a good rule to have; certain people might have gotten out of hand without that restriction. The King and Queen were exceptions. Their orica were strung around their neck on thick cords, identifying their positions as different from the others.

“Whoa! Look at Chloe!” Mindy marveled in awe. Speaking of their Queen…

Chloe Bellajean was not an active fighter. She wasn’t even fighting at all, really. She hadn’t moved an inch from the round chamber she’d been transported into, having promptly gone to sleep.

But for Chloe Bellajean, that had been fine.

“Look there!” One of the students from the Cloud Cohort shouted. “It’s their Queen, just sitting there!”

“Careful,” a blonde girl warned him. “It could be a trap.”

“No, I’m not sensing any other pieces nearby,” another boy who must have been a Rook declared, looking at his wristband and seeing no light in his orica. “She really is alone.”

“Excellent! Fireball!” The first boy declared, charging forward with a fireball forming in his hands.

Chloe turned over, a massive wall of flame erupting from the ground in front of her, absorbing the fireball and throbbing with growth. To the astonishment of the three students, the wall shifted and twisted, transforming into a giant golem of fire that loomed over them. It raised its hand, and swung it down upon the three of them.

The scoreboard for the Stars Cohort jumped up by 12 points as the audience gasped in surprise. Mindy’s jaw hit the floor, and even Jasmine looked shocked.

Levi’s eyes practically leapt from her skull.

“WHAT THE HECK?!” She exclaimed after she regained her bearings. “Eve, that was just like your magic! But, like… it was real! How?!”

“So that’s Dream Magic,” Eve mused, a little stunned herself. Mindy and Jasmine looked at her in confusion.

“Dream Magic?” Mindy asked. “The prince said that too, what is it?”

“It’s an incredibly powerful Conjuration Magic,” Eve replied. She’d only heard of it in books before. It made her illusions look like parlor tricks. “The caster turns their mana into whatever they can imagine, without specific spellcraft to shape it. In theory, they could use most any Conjuration Magic they could imagine.”

“That’s no fair!” Levi wailed. “I want to do that! Why does she get to do that?!”

“It’s her hair,” Eve answered Levi, but telling her friends as well. “You never found that blue coloring off?”

“What about it?” Jasmine asked curiously.

“Her mana level is absurdly high, so high it’s stained her hair,” Eve explained. “Dream Magic needs a high amount of raw magical power to use.” Eve wondered if Chloe’s absurdly high mana levels were part of the reason why she was always sleeping. It must have put a great strain on her body.

The match continued, and the Clouds Cohort managed to score a few more points of their own. Eve was beginning to grow an appreciation for the tactics of this game. Everyone had their own roles to play, suited to their own magic.

Using a board that apparently recorded the positions of everyone, Lance gave out orders through the communication function of his wristband orica. Eve had to admit there was a certain amount of genius to the careful way he guided his pieces through enemy lines, making use of Amy’s speed to figure out who was where on the opponent’s side. Eve felt confident that, with time, they would find the location of the enemy King and then end the game.

“Look! There’s Sabine!” Mindy said excitedly, squirming in her seat as a flash of red hair appeared on the orica. Sabine had been one of the Pawns assigned to guard the King, and her face showed exactly how happy she was about that position.

“Hopefully she won’t start anything with Elly,” Jasmine frowned. Eve shared her concerns. But fortunately, Sabine had another avenue to unleash her frustration upon.

“You two…” Calum Arslow appeared onscreen, crossing the threshold into the chamber of the labyrinth that Lancelus had chosen as their home base. Fresh from his suspension, his face filled with white-hot rage at the sight of Sabine and Elly. A wicked smile pulled across his face as he raised his hands, magic circles appearing in each palm. “I’m going to enjoy this…”

He took a menacing step forward, and the ground beneath his feet promptly exploded, flinging him backwards.

“What in the hells?!” Calum exclaimed.

The answer came from an unlikely source.

“Magic Script: Explosion.” One of the other three Pawns in the room, Melody, raised a wand, the tip shining with light.

“Fitting a fool like you would fall for such an obvious trap!” Sabine crowed triumphantly, flicking her hair over her shoulder. She cracked her knuckles, her eyes flashing dangerously. Mindy burst out laughing, applauding the performance as Jasmine smirked. Eve found it cathartic, seeing that trash be knocked on his rear.

But Calum wasn’t alone. As Ronn, Edd, and Dan gathered around him he rose to his feet with an angry roar. The three boys prepared Fireball spells as Calum himself readied a dangerous-looking lightning bolt the crackled between his hands. Elly stepped back to prepare a shield to guard the King, both sides ready for a fight.

Then one of them wasn’t.

Ronn was the first. He looked a little green around the gills and began to cough, holding his stomach. Then Edd doubled over and began to throw up. The other boys fared no better, their spells dispersing as their natural urges took over.

“What… what is this…” Calum gagged out as he splattered his breakfast on the white floor, releasing the electricity harmlessly into the air.

Josie held her head high and belted out a wicked laugh, her eyes glowing with malevolence. She tossed a pouch back and forth between her hands.

“I simply put a hex on you boys,” she cackled mockingly, tossing the bag at their feet. More small bags were tucked near the entrance. She strolled over to Dan and planted her heel on his head, grinding his face in the refuse. “Nothing fancy, just a little vomiting spell. Don’t tell me you punks focused all your studies on attack magic and didn’t consider dabbling in any protective charms?”

“Y-You bitch…” Calum gurgled out, another wave of nausea washing over him as he dry-heaved again.

They weren’t the only ones sick to their stomachs. Witnessing that revolting display had made a lot of the audience feel a little queasy too.

“Bleeeehh…” Levi threw up all over the floor. Well, she went through the motions, anyway. Illusory vomit wasn't a major concern.

“Your roommate is so totally gross,” Mindy wailed, looking like she was going to throw up herself. Eve couldn’t disagree. Josie’s sense of humor was rather revolting.

“Outta the way, vomit girl!” Sabine snarled, her mana crackling. Her hair flared out behind her and she set it ablaze. “Those four are mine.”

Josie didn’t object, not even to the nickname. She flashed a wicked smile and stepped aside.

The boys tried desperately to stand up and fight even as they continually got sick upon themselves, but Sabine was having none of it. “Est, give me a boost! I want to give them some hurt for this shameful sight.”

The blonde boy sighed, and began to cast a buffing enchantment. “Don’t go overboard. We’ll get in trouble if we seriously injure anybody.”

Somehow, Eve doubted Sabine would take his warning into consideration.

Needless to say, she was right. With her power boosted by Est’s magic and her opponents weakened by Josie’s, Sabine made quick work of the boys, her hair dancing around her in an inferno as she knocked them all out of the game.

Another 8 points on the scoreboard.

“Yeah! Get that piece of shit, Sabine!” Mindy cheered, and Eve felt a surge of pleasure at seeing Calum beaten down so thoroughly with Sabine’s wrath.

“What the hell were you thinking with the hex, Josie?!” Sabine roared, turning on her teammate as she gestured angrily at the puddles of vomit at the entrance. “Do you expect a future marchioness like me to put up with this nauseating stench for the rest of the match?!”

Josie let out a snort and rolled her eyes, clearly not giving a damn what anyone thought about her, certainly not Sabine.

Eve herself felt a note of ironic amusement. So much for team cohesion. But there was no sense in paying it any mind. At 20 points, victory for the Stars Cohort was imminent! The other side had a paltry 10.

Then, to Eve’s confusion, their score dropped to 18.

“What the heck?” Mindy gasped, confused. “Like, those are our points! Hey!” The score dropped again, to 16.

“Why’s it doing that?” Levi asked Eve, but Eve had no answer for her. Then the score rose to 20 again. The focus of the image shifted to another section of the battlefield, where massive blasts of flame roared.

Blake charged through the maze, Soulfire in hand, swinging at anyone who got in his way, regardless of their role. With no concern for point totals he sent another blast of flame through the corridor, but it was blocked by a magic barrier.

Blake stepped out into the room and the image pulled back to reveal three other students in with him, one of them having blocked his flames and already preparing another barrier. She stood in front of a student with a very noticeable necklace. Blake had found the enemy King!

The crowd was cheering, but Eve was stunned by Blake’s recklessness. He’d headed right in without any Pawns to support him, was he seriously going to try to take out all three of them? The furious look on his face said that was probably right. His sword glowed hot as fire danced along the blade, and with a slash he sent the flames at the girl who’d blocked his attack before.

She did it again this time, too. So not only was he reckless, he was also an idiot. Eve groaned and buried her face in her hands. Why did she have to protect a fool like this, with more wrath than brains?

“Get away!” The other student in the chamber, probably a Pawn, raised a sword of his own, an enchantment shining across the blade. He swung at Blake from the side and Blake thankfully had the sense to notice and parry the strike, sword bouncing off sword.

It became clear after a few blows that Blake had improved remarkably since his last sparring session with Eve. His opponent was clearly no match, even as the King and the Rook supported their sword-wielding teammate with blasts of water.

“He… he isn’t going to hurt that guy, right?” Mindy asked worriedly. Blake’s swings looked like they were pretty hard. Eve swallowed, unsure of the answer herself. She remembered from her own experience with his swordplay that Blake wasn’t much for holding back. He may have improved in skill, but apparently that wasn’t one of the faults he’d chosen to correct.

Flames singed his opponent as Blake continued to press him with his sword, and with a roar of anger he pushed forward and knocked the boy onto his back. Not giving him a chance to catch his breath, Blake raised his sword and moved to swing it again, when an alarm rang out, causing everyone to freeze.

The scoreboard flashed, words appearing that said “King: Captured. Stars Cohort Wins.”

If Eve was stunned, then Mindy was positively shocked. She looked at Eve and Jasmine for answers. The image shifted focus to the King in question, not struck down by a wayward blast of flame from Blake, but rather, the orica hanging from his chest had been shattered. A few feet away, an arrow wedged itself in the floor.

Blake spotted the arrow and whipped his head around, the magic eye shifting up to capture the image of Caelia Auburn, perched atop the wall of the chamber. She lowered her bow and gave Blake a sharp nod, but he growled at her in response. The ground of the labyrinth began to glow and the image cut out. The game was now over.

The audience was less than satisfied with that anticlimactic end, as one might expect. But Eve was merely glad for their victory, like Mindy and Jasmine.

“Did you see that?! Caelia was, like, the coolest with that bow of hers!” Mindy gushed. “Blake got their attention and then she just slipped in and was like ‘whammo’! Wasn’t that awesome, Jas? Eve?”

“Definitely,” Jasmine nodded, a small smile crossing her lips that Eve had to agree with. She hadn’t expected to get so invested in the match, but she was.

Eve just hoped the next one would be just as exciting, if not more. Those twins seemed strong. Hopefully, Blake would keep his temper in check and not just go around attacking everyone he came across. His anger issues were starting to worry her.

Real Aire