The eighteen ranged competitors lined up side-by-side with Vur and Lillian on the rightmost end. Roy stood on the leftmost end, his eyes staring straight ahead. The eight healers stood on a platform behind the students.
The referee stood to the side of the field with the golems. “You have one hour,” he announced. The golems eyes lit up as their bodies started to move. “Begin!”
The majority of the students started chanting while a few waved their staves, sending spells towards the golems. The golems dodged and blocked the spells with their arms in return. Vur raised his staff into the air and started chanting. Lillian bit her lip as she focused mana into her arrow and drew her bow. A loud twanging sound reverberated in the air as the arrow struck a golem, sending cracks through its head. It wobbled, but steadied itself before a ball of ice struck its already cracked head and knocked it over.
The noble next to Lillian snickered. “That’s one for me,” he said as he raised his staff and started chanting again. A green light enveloped the golem and its head reformed before it stood up again. The pope nodded his head and smiled at his daughter.
Lillian stomped her feet and nocked another arrow, storing mana inside of it. A lightning bolt struck a golem, leaving a crack in its head. She loosed her arrow at the golem and watched it fly straight for the crack. Right before the arrow made contact, a green light enveloped the golem and mended the wound. The arrow smashed into the golem, but it remained standing.
Lillian wheeled her body around and glared at the healers. One of them grinned and scratched his head. “Oops,” he said. “I guess I healed it too early. Better luck next time.” Lillian ground her teeth and inhaled as she closed her eyes. She turned back around and nocked another arrow, storing mana again. Sweat formed on her brow and her face paled. The ground trembled underneath her and she paused, turning to look at Vur.
“The Lightning God’s Fury!” Vur shouted and swung his staff towards the ground. A vortex of air swirled around his body, silencing the whole area. All eyes, competitor’s and spectator’s alike, widened.
“Aren’t all the competitors under twenty-five?” the pope asked the king. The king nodded with his mouth open.
Hundreds of thunderbolts rained down from the sky, obliterating the golems and setting fire to the field. The competitors fell onto their hands and knees as the ground shook from the impacts and all the children in the crowd of spectators started to cry.
“This-,” Michelle said before shaking her head and scrambling to her feet. A white aura surrounded her body as she started chanting, ignoring the ringing in her ears. Vur raised his staff and started chanting again, ignoring everyone’s gazes.
“That’s monstrous,” the pope said as he raised a barrier around himself and the king. “We need to have him.”
The king chuckled. “Well, he’s clearly going to win,” the king said.
“That’s not what I meant,” the pope said as he lowered his voice. “Imagine if a sacred spirit rested inside of his body instead of just blessing it.”
The king’s eyes narrowed. “Your daughter and my son are part of this too,” he said. “I refuse.”
“We can let the spirits bless all the winners normally,” the pope said as he waved his hand. “Then we wait a year for the spirits to recover and invite the boy back for some other reasons.”
The king rubbed his chin as he stared at Vur. “Can the possession fail?” he asked.
“The spirits aren’t that weak,” the pope said.
A white pillar of light rained down from the sky and crashed into the burning field of golems, removing the fire and healing the golems. Their disintegrated bodies reformed, dust particle by dust particle. Michelle gasped and broke out in a cold sweat as she stumbled. Her face was pale, but a smile was plastered on her face.
A ball of lightning formed in the air above the golems, crackling, but not striking. Sweat rolled down Vur’s back as more and more balls of lightning manifested in the air. He tapped Lillian’s shoulder and pointed at the golems as he continued chanting. Lillian furrowed her brow before loading her bow. The other competitors glanced at each other and started chanting when they saw that Vur wasn’t going to strike.
Lillian loosed her arrow and cracked a golem. A noble smirked and followed up with a ball of fire. Vur snorted and a lightning ball tore the golem apart before the fireball reached it. The noble glared at Vur, who didn’t even notice his gaze. Every time a noble was about to destroy a golem, a bolt of lightning would strike it. The only exceptions were Roy, who was able to destroy the golems with a single surprise hit from underground, and Lillian.
Vur ignored the jeers and gazes for the full hour, continuously chanting and forming more balls of lightning. The lightning dissipated when the referee called time.
“For the ranged competition, first place goes to Vurdurr, with a total of 97 golems destroyed,” the referee announced. “Second place goes to Roy, with a total of 20 golems destroyed. Third place goes to Lillian, with a total of eight golems destroyed.”
“That wasn’t fair!” The other competitors shouted and booed the referee. Yells of agreement rang throughout the field. Vur crossed his arms as he focused on regaining his breath. Rivulets of sweat ran down his body, soaking the ground beneath.
“Shut up!” Michelle yelled. “All of you, just shut up!” The students froze with their mouths open as they turned to stare at Michelle. Her face turned red and she let out a cough. “I’m disappointed in every one of you. You should be ashamed. None of you wanted to fight Vurdurr in a one-on-one match, so you petitioned for a group competition where you could gang up on him and Lillian.” She put her hands on her hips. “Now you’re crying because the two of them beat you. This isn’t how nobles of prestigious households should act.”
“Well said!” the king said and nodded at her. She smiled back.
The referee cleared his throat. “And the winner of the healer competition goes to Michelle, with a total of 83 golems healed.” The spectators applauded. “The warrior competition will begin in an hour after the field has been adjusted.”
Vur turned to face the competing nobles. “I’m sorry,” he said and tilted his head. “It must feel terrible to lose to a backwater noble. My condolences.” He turned around and walked out of the field, followed by a smiling Lillian.
“That was amazing. I thought I was going to go deaf,” Paul said as he burst out laughing. “It doesn’t matter if Lillian offended every single noble in the capital. You’re definitely worth more.” He thumped Vur’s shoulder. “Let’s celebrate, drinks on me.”
Michelle cleared her throat next to the trio. “Hi,” she said. “Can I come too?”
Lillian tilted her head and creased her brow. “You don’t hate me?” she asked as she edged towards Paul.
“It was only a dress,” Michelle said. “And a shower got rid of the puke smell.”
“Not completely,” Vur said.
“Nothing,” Vur said. “You’re not going to watch the warrior competition?”
“Like I’d want to watch that obnoxious twit,” Michelle said as she smiled and shot a glance at Lillian.
“I mean, if you don’t mind…,” Lillian said as she scratched her head. “I thought he was your boyfriend, you know, with the way he was acting and all.”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “He’s not. He’s just very… Ugh.”
“Oh,” Lillian said as she placed her hands on Paul’s shoulders. “This is Paul. He’s my cousin.” She turned towards Paul. “You should know who she is, unlike someone.” Her eyes flit to Vur.
“Um, hello,” Paul said with his face tinged in a faint red. “What do I address you as?
“Just call me Michelle,” she said and curtsied.
Paul nodded and wheeled around. “A-alright. Drinks, yeah?” he asked as he willed his face to cool down.
Vur turned towards Lillian. “He seems to be unwell.” Lillian smirked.