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"Hmm… She's been well-balanced and strong from the start, hasn't she?"
Oliver seemed to speak lightly, but his words were indeed accurate.
Yareli from the Issai family, a prestigious family in the Skadi school, possessed mana and magical abilities befitting her reputation, along with not insignificant battle experience.
She was proficient enough to use ice magic, which is disadvantageous in arid places, without any difficulty, and even more so, she understood the characteristics of ice magic such as coldness like poison, restraining force, and spatial control better than anyone else.
As proof, even though she used only minor magic relative to her mana, she easily suppressed her opponent, and during that, she took care to ensure that the opponent was not injured.
Actions that are only possible with superior skills.
Perhaps because of this, both the students who faced Yareli and the ones watching developed positive feelings such as affection and admiration for her, regardless of their gender.
‘She looks a bit tired though…'
Oliver thought, piercing through Yareli's emotions.
Well, it might not be that strange… Most students at the tower were always mentally and emotionally tired due to the pressure they each had.
There were exceptions, but they were relatively few, and even those from prestigious families were no exception.
From what Oliver had seen so far, the expectations seemed higher for those affiliated with prestigious families.
‘Everyone must be struggling.'
Oliver thought, writing an evaluation sheet for Yareli with Kevin.
Shik. Shik. Shik…
After a while, the sound of writing stopped, and Kevin, resetting the timer on the clock, asked.
"Felix and Derick fought all the way to the last, the tenth match, didn’t they?"
"Yes, Mr. Derick and Mr. Felix are finished. Ms. Yareli still has one last match left."
Oliver replied, checking the evaluation sheet he had written.
The final exam for [Magic Combat Basic] was tough, forcing students to compete against each other according to the brackets set by Kevin, each student had to compete ten times in a row.
As a result, apart from a few students like Derick or Yareli, most of them were exhausted.
‘But still, it has to be done this way. Magic combat is a lesson for the reserve wizards, and war is not a competition. Only by pushing oneself to the extreme will it be helpful.'
When the students were shocked by the intense exam method different from other [Magic Combat] classes, Kevin had said so.
To Oliver, it didn't seem so wrong.
Unexpected situations would occur more frequently in life-or-death battles. This approach would be much more helpful.
‘Of course, not in terms of grades though.'
Oliver thought, recalling the students who had taken the previous exams.
There were students with good skills and those who lacked, but regardless, most were exhausted from the consecutive matches and dropped out halfway, to whom Kevin said, ‘You're dead.'
Given Kevin's cold and objective approach to evaluation, it would be difficult for most to get good grades.
Recently, Oliver seemed to understand why students in the tower preferred classes that yield better grades rather than ones that are more helpful.
"May I say something?"
During the shift from Derick and Felix coming down and the next student going up, Yareli spoke with a calm yet clear voice.
It was a unique voice that Oliver had noticed before.
Despite not being loud, it attracted people's attention and lodged itself in their ears, and it was pleasant to hear. It was as if it had been practiced.
"What is it? Are you not feeling well?"
Kevin asked, and Yareli shook her head.
"No, I'm not hurt, and my stamina is fine."
"If you'd allow me, could I choose my last opponent?"
"Choose an opponent?"
Taken by surprise, Kevin furrowed his brows.
"Hmm… Who do you want to fight?"
Yareli pointed at Oliver, who was in the middle of grading, and all eyes turned to him.
As everyone's gaze focused on him, Oliver felt a sense of unease.
Something similar had happened in the first [Magic Combat Basics] class as well.
"What's the reason?"
Kevin asked, and Yareli answered with composure.
“The purpose of this test, as the professor has said, is not just to get a grade, but also to train in preparation for your time as a full-fledged war wizard, right?"
"Coincidentally, I am observing each and every one of how other people fight, identifying their weaknesses."
Oliver was impressed. Yareli was not boasting but stating facts through a cool-headed evaluation.
Somehow… she had completely grasped the timing of the students' hesitation, or their next response strategy. It was an impressive observation and memory.
Even Kevin didn't make any objections, acknowledging this.
In other words, Yareli was absolutely right.
She had hit the nail on the head.
"So, I think it would be better for me to compete with Mr. Zenon, who I don't know well, in terms of both training and evaluation."
Considering Oliver wasn't a student, it didn't seem like a wrong statement. The other students also showed interest and agreed.
Oliver looked at Kevin. He was thinking for a moment.
It wasn't just that he disliked the idea, he seemed to have a deeper reason for refusing.
"Is there a reason why it can't be done?"
Yareli threw out the question bluntly. But her words weren't empty. The faint emotion shining with doubt was the evidence.
Kevin responded to the provocation with slight discomfort.
Kevin looked at Oliver.
"Zenon, do you want to give it a try?"
"Um… If it's part of the job, I'll do it."
Oliver, as per Yareli and Kevin's suggestion, took off his outerwear, grabbed his tonfa, and ascended to the arena.
He had agreed to do it, but he wondered why this situation had suddenly come about.
‘Does this give me a sense of unease?'
Oliver thought, looking at the students whose eyes were filled with interest and excitement. They had temporarily stopped their tests and were watching the arena.It seemed similar when he had a match with Derick on the first day of class.
"Wouldn't a quarterstaff be better?"
Yareli asked abruptly, facing Oliver who was awkwardly standing in the tense atmosphere.
"I asked if a quarterstaff would be better. You used it in the first class."
"Ah, I'm more accustomed to the tonfa these days. Thank you for the suggestion though."
It was true that he had learned to fight with a tonfa from Duncan and Joe, so it was more familiar to him, but due to the period of use, it was less familiar than the quarterstaff.
‘Um, that's not important.'
Oliver thought as he turned his head towards Kevin, who began to seriously explain the match rules in the middle of the arena.
It was exactly the same as with Derick, so he didn't need to pay much attention.
"The match time is the same as other tests, 5 minutes. Understand?"
With that, Kevin left the arena and created a magical barrier around the perimeter.
With Kevin's declaration, Yareli created a wide range of ice on the floor of the arena through her feet, spreading it out in all directions.
This was not something she had prepared in advance like the other students but started simultaneously with the match, so Oliver reacted a beat slower than usual.
It was a truly surprising level of skill.
But what was even more surprising was that this was not a decisive attack, but just a feint.
Yareli's emotions spoke to him, and in response, Oliver grasped Tonfa like an axe, flipping it from bottom to top and tearing the field ahead.
Thanks to this, the ice that covered the entire stadium could not cover the area he had torn.
‘If it drags on, it'll be dangerous, won't it?'
Oliver thought, watching Yareli's game and her emotional state in front of him.
She was at a disadvantage because she used a poison-like cold to decrease her opponent's physical function, and ice-like traps to dominate the space and slowly press her opponents.
It would have been fine if he just lost, but something was uncomfortable.
Although faint, it was because Yareli had shown a desire for doubt and confirmation toward Oliver.
It wasn't malicious or creepy, but there was some kind of plot, and he felt like he needed to be careful.
Having reached such a conclusion, Oliver stepped forward on the ground not covered by ice. Ice spikes sprung up with a sharp sound, blocking Oliver's path.
They sprang from the ice-covered ground next to him and even contained dense mana, momentarily blocking his vision.
Oliver swung his Tonfa to destroy the ice spikes blocking his path and looked forward.
Yareli was not there.
As soon as Oliver confirmed that Yareli was missing, he emitted mana from his body, sensed his surroundings, and swung his Tonfa like a whip, knocking off the ice darts flying from the side.
Sharp ice shards flew in all directions with a crisp sound like a glass cup breaking, and he could see Yareli beyond.
She quickly moved across the frozen ground and threw another ice dart.
Oliver swung his Tonfa like a whip, knocking off the ice dart, and Yareli continued to fire ice darts.
Such inefficient and boring attacks were unlike her. Oliver soon realized her scheme.
Out of the numerous ice darts, Oliver broke only two, twisting his body to avoid the rest.
When the unbroken ice darts hit the magical barrier, a powerful chill was released, frosting the surroundings.
Yareli, who had been figured out, tried to prepare a large attack using the ice on the ground, but as soon as Oliver saw this, he threw his Tonfa like an axe, interrupting the casting of her magic.
Whether it was magic, black magic, or physical combat, the most efficient method was to block before it unfolded.
Surprised by the more aggressive offense than expected, Yareli looked at Oliver with a startled expression.
But it was not over yet.
The Tonfa that Oliver threw stuck to the ground, and Oliver pulled on the installed magical string to approach Yareli quickly.
He needed to brace against the slippery ice-covered ground.
‘Ice magic. It's the exact opposite of fire, but they're similar.'
Oliver thought, pinpointing that both heavily influenced the surrounding environment and seized space through widespread magic.
Yareli was momentarily flustered at the sight of Oliver closing the distance quickly, but soon calmed down and cast a spell, thanks to her vast practical experience.
Yareli swallowed the cold air around the arena and spat it out at Oliver.
A sky-blue chill that ripped through the skin and degraded physical functions.
Because it was accurately fired while approaching, Oliver decided not to avoid but to break through it head-on.
A punch full of mana with one hand holding the Tonfa.
The punch full of Oliver's mana extended toward the incoming sky-blue chill, and amazingly, the chill spread out as if it had lost its focal point.
This was a possible result, as he enhanced his power with mana and targeted the weakness of the technique.
The students watching outside the arena marveled at the brief offensive and defensive match.
Oliver, who stopped a few steps in front of Yareli.
Despite her magic being destroyed, Yareli did not panic, but gathered the frozen ice on the ground to prepare for a counterattack.
As soon as Oliver saw this, he pulled back the Tonfa connected with the mana string, aiming it at Yareli's shoulder.
Yareli not only used the gathered surface ice as a shield to block Oliver's attack, but she also fixed the embedded Tonfa to freeze Oliver's hand along with the Tonfa.
A meticulous counterattack that would make a mistake if taken lightly.
Oliver admired it, and then hit the frozen Tonfa with his unscathed Tonfa to break the ice around his hand, then concentrated his mana to recover his fallen body temperature.
He had thought that fire magic, which could overwhelm the opponent with high firepower in an instant, was more effective than ice magic, but it seemed to be a wrong idea.
While fire magic pressed the opponent with high firepower, ice magic slowly choked the opponent.
It was just as threatening as fire magic, only with a difference in character.
Oliver, who had recovered his frozen hand, tried to attack Yareli again, but she was one step ahead. She gathered mana in her hands, applied it to the ice-covered ground, and created a huge ice wall.
Between her and Oliver… and throughout the entire arena.
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