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Gazing at the cyan serpent, I couldn't help but feel my body shudder. "Wh-What the fuck is that?!"
"…A-A mana beast?" Amelia stammered, her wide eyes fixed on the monstrosity before us.
"…No, nonsense!" Nero shook his head. "If that is a mana beast, then it's easily above the Diamond rank!"
"A-A… Divine mana beast?" Anastasia gulped.
"But then the academy should know about it!" Kent objected.
Unfortunately, before any of us could continue the talk, the serpent lunged at us, pulverizing the trunks of all the trees that dared to block its path.
Without a word, all of us scattered by darting in different directions.
The serpent hit nothing but the uneven forest ground where we had been standing just a few seconds ago, sending a localized earthquake.
The tremor almost threw me off but I managed to keep my balance and stay on foot. I felt the ground shaking again as the serpent began to move. It was going to chase us.
With its size, I doubt we would be able to outrun it for long.
Without stopping my run or turning back to look at the monstrosity, I tapped on my smart bracelet and shouted, "Athena, send a distress signal to the instructors and alert other cadets on the islands!"
[Already done, Sir! You are advised to follow the standard Code Red procedure and retreat back to the Exam Supervisors!]
"Yes, I know I need to run, Athena! Thank you very much for telling me what I need to do in fucking Code Red!" I yelled back at the AI "Yes, I know I need to run, Athena! Thank you very much for telling me what I need to do in fucking Code Red!" I yelled back at the AI assistant.
The academy equipped us with various levels of emergency scenarios and practical strategies to counter them.
Code White was the least dangerous situation because it meant that only one individual's life was in jeopardy.
Whereas Code Black meant the potential for more than a million casualties.
Following Code Black, Code Red was the second most dangerous scenario, where the lives of thousands were at stake.
If this mana beast really was of the Divine rank, then it meant the lives of everyone on this chain of isles were at risk.
The problem was the fact that it was only the second day of the exam today.
The ships weren't scheduled to pick us up today, so they were sailing a few miles away from the islands.
Even if our Unit had just completed the exam, the ships would still need at least another half an hour to reach the coast.
All the eliminated Cadets would be there at the shore, along with other Cadets who had received the panic signal.
If this mana beast reached the shore, it would be akin to leading a rabid wolf into a herd of sheep… it would be a horrific slaughter.
But what could we do?! All of us are on the Silver or Gold ranks. We have no business trying to fight a Divine-ranked mana beast.
The top three mana core rankings - Divine, Immortal, and Mythical - are largely different from the lower and middle ranks.Upon reaching the Divine rank, whether it be a person or a beast, they not only gain an incomparably large mana pool but also acquire a sort of enlightenment.
This enlightenment helps them in their mastery of mana in every possible way. They essentially become one with it.
At the Immortal rank, they achieved a state of undying existence. Unless their mana core is destroyed, they couldn't be killed, and even then, some could survive.
After reaching the Mythical rank - which no one had accomplished yet except Leo, who could mimic the Mythical rank using Symphony - they become forces of nature.
Just like Leo, upon reaching the Mythical rank, they could manipulate mana and bend the laws of nature to their will.
My point is that all three of the top ranks are far beyond what we could currently handle. We are not yet prepared to fight something of this level.
That's why it was shocking to hear a resolute voice yelling at us from up ahead.
"You all, keep going, and don't look back! I'll hold this creature off here!"
I glanced upward to see Nero standing on a high tree branch, staring down at us.
The colossal serpent was close on our heels. It was merely a few meters away.
Nero's gaze shifted from us to the cyan snake, which was toppling the forest's trees standing between us and it.
"Are you out of your mind!" I roared, stopping in my tracks. "It's a Divine mana beast! It'll tear you apart!"
Nero maintained a calm demeanor as he looked down at me. "If we lure it back to the shore, everyone there will die. Our best bet is to keep it here in the forest."
"Do you think I haven't thought of that?!" I snapped. "But we can't take on a fucking Divine-ranked creature, Nero!"
"That's why I'm telling you to run!" Nero's voice echoed back at me. "Get to the shore, wait for the ships, and signal me!"
"What's the point when you'll be dead?!" I retorted, turning to face Amelia, Kent, and Anastasia, who had also stopped their retreat. "And what the hell are all of you doing?!"
"Nero is right," Anastasia gritted her teeth, her hands clenched into tight fists as her eyes began to radiate a brilliant golden glow.
Her eyes seemed to transform into twin orbs of blazing flames. Azure mana started to swirl around her fists, gradually growing golden like her eyes.
"We cannot lead the mana beast back to the shore," she stated intensely, her eyes glowing at me like a pair of suns.
Amelia summoned a lusterless black spear and nodded. We'll have a good chance of stopping it here if all of us fight. So, I'll join."
"Same here," Kent added, summoning a long scythe into his hands.
"Have you all gone fucking insane?! If the Cadets die, then let them! Save yourselves first!" I shouted but quickly felt the ground tremble.
The forest behind us shook, and a couple of trees toppled over.
I pointed back at the forest and yelled, "That thing will slaughter you all within minutes! Fucking minutes! You'll die!"
"Then we'll die together," Nero declared, extending his hands.
In an instant, a sword materialized in his grip, its blade shimmering crimson with a burst of flames. He had already unleashed his Gift.
"Damn it!" I cursed aloud, then spun around. "That's why I hate fucking heroes!"
As the last few trees between us and the beast collapsed, I whispered under my breath, "Phoenix Embrace."
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