3 The Arena

    In the Ivory tower, silent was the norm. Except the hustle and bustle of the market floor, there was rarely any activity that caused commotions...besides the arena.

    Today, people were rushing over to the arena, a floor specifically designated and designed to resolve conflicts and different. In the arena, acolytes would fight, usually one on one, and bet something big. It was also the only floor within the tower where an acolyte was allowed to fight with another acolyte without any repercussion. There were few rules, but it was primordial to respect them. Once, an advanced apprentice didn't abide by the law, and was squashed to death by Great Adept Rayleigh's personal disciple, who had come out of seclusion for this sole purpose.

    Anyway, in this bright day of summer, a match had been announced. Duels were rare, and it was the opportunity to scout acolyte's fighting strengths and style. It was also a very enjoyable hobby, which really differed from the boring and repetitive meditation and research routine that most acolytes gave their life for.

    The match opposed two unknown beginner acolytes, which was rather surprising. Few knew their names, but both were quite eager to fight against the other. From Drodosis' point of view, it was the opportunity to teach the half-orc scoundrel a lesson and to test his spells. From Jean's point of view, it was the opportunity to reap off a fortune!

    Others might ignore this fact, but Drodosis had only broken through the beginner acolyte realm a few days, maybe a few months ago. How many spells could he have mastered since then? How weak his spirit would be? Moreover, the bet was huge! Drodosis had proposed a bet of 10 magical crystals, a considerable sum even for someone like him, who came from an adept family!

    Most of missions gave dozens of gold coins

    Earning a magic crystal with beginner acolyte strength meant risking one's life. In the past, Drodosis only earned magic crystals by enlisting as a patrol, which earned him a magic crystal every three months. After thinking about it, it wasn't worth it. After all, each daily patrol took him a few hours, and from times to times, a few rat demons managed to slip through the magical formation. Hence, he would risk his life by fighting them! If he didn't manage to learn the acid spear spell in the past, he would have surely died over ten times by now!

    However, it was all in the past, and Drodosis was about to step up. The hierarchy of the tower was not so easily shaken, and he had to prove his strength. Only then would he have to bully others like he had been bullied!

    The rules in an arena match were simple. No kill. No curse. Make it enjoyable.

    Three easy rules which didn't prevent two acolytes from fighting to near-death. As long as there were no accidents, only injuries would result in an arena match. However, more often than not, the bet was enough misfortune for whoever lost the match.

    Today was no exception. Jean had used all relations he had built with other beginner acolytes in the past years in order to raise a sum of 10 magical crystals from nothing. After all, not everyone came from adept families!

    "Are you sure you want to go through that?", the old man Foxy asked, as he came as soon as he heard the news.

    "Yes! It's the perfect opportunity for me, not to mention that besides his beastlike strength, Jean is nothing compared to me!", Drodosis said, full of himself.

    "Since you're boasting, you'd better win this fight!", the old man answered, slightly reassured.

    As the crowd cheered, the arena master declared the beginning of the fight. Drodosis could see familiar faces within the crowd, some being influential merchants of beginner or even intermediate realm, others being mere acolytes who had yet to make a breakthrough, hoping to get an insight in this duel. Of course, there were also mortals, who couldn't cultivate spirit, but couldn't prevent themselves but be curious about its power.

    Arena matches were rare, since acolytes were reasonable and pragmatic. Most of matches would come along injuries, and the cost of healing were extremely high. Few would be willing to risk years of training to resolve minor conflicts!

    Yet, here he was, in the middle of the 20 square meters circle. He glared at this Jean. The man was huge, being over 190 centimetres tall, and extremely large. He was basically a mountain of muscles. However, Drodosis had never been more confident.

    [Beep! Name: Jean (15-years-old, 5 months).

    Beginner Acolyte

    HP - 28/28

    Strength - 8 | Agility - 3 | Physique - 10 | Spirit - 4| Magic Power - 4 | Mana - 12

    Status: Healthy.

    Perks: → (?)

    Skills:  → Berserk Racial Skill (Double strength for an extended period of time)

    Chance of winning: 58% in close range, 98% at intermediate range.]

    Drodosis knew that Jean's strength was huge, especially after using his racial skill coming from his orc ancestry. He had previous seen the man tear apart a sand bear with his bare hands. Moreover, the half-orc was carrying a huge broadsword on him, and Drodosis knew that even with his defensive spells, surviving a close-range attack would be a tough call.

    However, why would he go in close range anyway?

    As soon as the fight started, Drodosis didn't waste any second, casting the spell as soon as he could. Somehow, the spell that usually took a few seconds to cast, was immediately launched. A terrifying 1-meters-long corrosive spear, flickering with green light, crashed on Jean's broadsword. The impact was huge, and the speed so fast that nobody had the time to understand what had just happened.

    However, 10 points of physique was no laughing matter. After shouting a war cry, Jean tossed away his - now corroded and unusable - broadsword, and charged towards Drodosis. Red runes had spread all over his body, and a hint of madness could be seen in his eyes, as if he were possessed by a primordial demon. It was indeed the berserk racial skill.

    'Tsk, strong but slow, huh!'

    Even though Drodosis was not half as strong as his opponent, his tempered muscles enabled him to much faster than his enemy, mainly because he weighed not even a quarter of Jean's weight.

    Drodosis basically ran around the beast, dodging incoming strikes which seemed to lack any technique, and which were thrown with pure instincts.

    After creating a small distance, Drodosis cast another acid spear. This time, Jean had no layer of defence besides his unusually tough leather-like skin. 16 points of damage was no joke, but Jean didn't die. In fact, he was still standing, and waving his arms madly at Drodosis.

    A normal person would be agonizing on the ground, if not already dead, but Jean was in a berserk state. He was insane.

    After receiving the spear on his body, Jean moved even slower than before, and his breaths were becoming louder. Drodosis unsheathed a dagger on his waist. It was a small item he had bought to Old Foxy a long time ago and originally stored in his bedroom. It was of high quality, sharp yet small, light yet destructive. It was cheap, priced at only one magic crystal. Drodosis had purchased it without wondering whether he could use it or not.

    However, no matter how much Drodosis lacked experience, there was no way he would lose against a near-crippled opponent. Dodging his opponent final rage outburst, Drodosis raised his hands and swiftly but surely cut off one of his opponent's arm. Even though compared to Jean, Drodosis was physically weak, he was still one of the strongest men in this tower! He had reached the preparatory knight realm a year ago, and his strength was as high as 6 points!

    As the arm touched the ground, the arena master declared the winner, "And it's all over! Drodosis Thornfield, only 13 years old, managed to win this match in an unexpected dominant way! Today, we welcome a new warrior!", but Jean had long since succumbed to madness in his berserk state.

    Chains emerged from the ground, bounding him.

    A few seconds later, clarity returned to him, and after becoming lucid, pain struck him. He fainted, unable to withstand this agonizing torment. He would survive, and maybe, if he were lucky, he would manage to recover from this injury. But it didn't matter to Drodosis anymore. His revenge was complete, and killing his opponent didn't make sense. Crippling him was enough. He had no backing, no money after this bet, and even if he recovered, he would be no match for Drodosis. It was a flawless victory, one which surprised every single acolyte in the arena.

    'Tsk, I didn't even get to show off my defensive water orb spell! Well, I guess it's for the better. It'll be my trump card from now on!'

    Drodosis meditated for the next few minutes in an empty room where the mana concentration was unusually high. Meditating, his biochip made him a pleasant surprise.

    [Beep! Host is standing near to a mana generator crystal! It is possible to absorb it and harvest evolution points. Would you like to go through the process?]

    'Mm, I can't afford to pay for it. Will they notice?'

    [Beep! In this case, I can absorb 30% of the evolution points stored. Unless an adept checks it, no one will notice the change!]

    'Do it!'

    [beep! Beginning the process. It will take 1 hour, and 23 minutes.]

    Drodosis didn't expect it to be so long, but still went through it anyway. In the past three days, he had not meditated once, and he only focused on his training to earn a bit of fighting experience, after setting up the bet. He wondered whether meditating with the help of the biochip would provide pleasant surprises like this one!

    One hour and 30 minutes later, Drodosis came out of seclusion, and he was congratulated by both the old foxy, and the arena master's subordinate, who was a surprisingly strong intermediate acolyte who knew the old merchant.

    "Here are your 10 magic crystals. Use them wisely.", the subordinate said in a respectful and stoic tone.

    "Thanks, sir!", Drodosis answered, obviously excited at his earnings.

    "Let's go, Drodosis! I have a lot to tell you about!", the old man said, before whispering in Drodosis' ears, *Let's leave before he entices you into doing more matches in the arena. He's a greedy man, and you're akin to a golden mine in his eyes. Let's go*

    Drodosis didn't have to hear this twice. After returning his room, he could finally rest for a moment, and look at his gains.

    [Beep! Name: Drodosis Thornfield (13-years-old, 5 months).

    Beginner Acolyte

    Evolution points - 224

    HP - 19

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    Strength - 4 (+2) | Agility - 4 | Physique - 5 (+2) | Spirit - 4| Magic Power - 4 | Mana - 12

    Status: Healthy.

    Perks: → Preparatory Knight Physique (+2 Strength and Physique).

    Skills:  → Acid Spear (Deals [Spirit*4] points of damage, cost 3 points of mana. Projectile's speed scaling with magic power (50 + [Magic Power] *10 m/s)).

    → Water Orb (Create a water orb around the caster, with [Spirit] layers, each one of them absorbing up to [10+Spirit] points of damage. Cost: 3 points of mana. After ten minutes, the spell is cancelled)

    Items: 22 magical crystals.]

    'What? I earned 20 evolution points for this absorption? That's huge!', Drodosis thought, obviously joyous at the discovery, 'How much would it cost me to break through the knight realm?'

    [Beep! 800 evolution points are required. If host eats the following food, the price will decrease.]

    Drodosis looked at an exhaustive list of over 200 names, most of them he had never heard of. He was shocked, but pleasantly surprised once again.

    'Haha! Inheriting this biochip is truly a godsend gift! As long as I have evolution points, I can rise through heavens!'
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