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Edvard went from one Hunter to another, executing the same mysterious move. From their perspective, all they could see was the leader of their country’s Altered Hunter Association stand in front of their peers for one second, before they would collapse to their knees, powerless to resist.
Before, all the Hunters had to do was to endure the slowly increasing pain in their muscles, holding on until this part of the assessment was over. Now, they felt the pressure of knowing that their leader would eventually come over to them, testing them in his strange way.
The visible failure of others right in front of them was taking a toll on the Hunters' focus and concentration. They found themselves lost in their thoughts, unable to shake off the distracting mental images of their fellow participants collapsing before them. The impact was so significant that some participants failed before Edvard had a chance to get to them, their concentration broken beyond repair.
'Just what is going on? He isn't touching any of them, so why are they falling like dominos?' Innu racked his brain to make sense of the scene before him. 'Is this some sort of superpower like Ashen had, or could it be that Qi thing that he talked about.
'I practised a bit of that energy, but it was mainly when using my weapons and not just through my body and on its own. Should I practise a bit now before he reaches me? Maybe it's better to just focus until it's my turn?'
The physical aspect of the assessment was a breeze for Innu, and he didn't need to put much mental effort into it. However, the presence of Edvard was causing him immense pressure. Innu was a doer, not a thinker, and he worried that there might be a hidden trick that he was supposed to uncover. If that were the case, he feared that he might fail at the very first hurdle.
For Blake he was trying to assess the situation more calmly.
'So far about 1 in every ten that Edvard approaches doesn't fall. There has to be a reason for that. Is it their ranking? The ones that passed are mostly three star hunters, but there are one star hunters that have passed while some two star hunters have fallen as well.
Blake tried to remain calm as he assessed the situation. ‘It seems like only one in ten participants manage to resist Edvard's move,’ he observed. ‘There has to be a reason for that. Most of the Hunters who pass are three-star, but there are also one-star Hunters who made it through, while some two-star Hunters failed.’ Blake was trying to analyze the pattern and find a logical explanation for why some succeeded while others failed.
‘If the ranking isn't the determining factor, then it must be something that the higher-star Hunters have likely experienced before.’ As he pondered over the possibilities, it was finally his turn, and Edvard walked over towards him. Blake tried to remain composed as their eyes met, and Edvard gave him a reassuring smile. The smile momentarily eased Blake's nerves, and he took a deep breath, ready to face whatever lay ahead.
The two had met before, even talked for a short while, and although Edvard knew he wasn’t supposed to show any favouritism, he was hoping that Blake wouldn’t disappoint him.
"Try your best." Edvard whispered to the point that only the teenager before him could hear him as he pulled his glasses down.
Blake's gaze was immediately fixated on Edvard's piercing, red eyes, unable to look away. The darkness of the room only intensified their glow, making it seem as though he was being drawn into a vortex. However, he felt no other sensations until Edvard uttered a few specific words, which caused a sudden jolt of recognition to surge through him.
As soon as he heard the command, Blake felt a strange sensation in his legs. They were moving without his accord.
'What is happening to me? Is this some type of mind control?!!!' Blake was slightly panicking as he felt his legs start to move on their own. His brain was telling his legs to stop what they were doing, but they showed no signs of listening to him. He understood that he was about to join all the others who were sitting on the floor.
'I can't fail here!'
Drawing on the internal energy he had discovered during his training sessions, Blake felt a warmth emanating from his belly, which he channelled down to his legs. Since his conscious mind seemed to have lost control of his body, he focused all his attention on forcefully directing the energy into his legs, determined to remain standing.
His feet dug into the ground a little and his position stayed strong.
"I had faith in your abilities, you can take a breather now," Edvard whispered with a knowing tone.
The next moment he put his glasses back on, Blake did as he said, and stopped using the internal energy. He had yet to really master it, and it was draining his stamina far more so than the exercise. Nevertheless, he had done it, he had successfully passed.
After passing Edvard's assessment, Fang met with each successful student to inform them that they were through to the next round. However, they were still required to wait in the room until all the other students completed their assessments.
'Innu, I know you are strong and skilled… but I’m afraid to pass his test you need more than physical strength.' Blake worried about Innu’s chances.
Innu, however, felt more determined than ever after seeing Blake pass.
‘If he can do it, so can I. I won't fall behind,’ he thought to himself. Still, that confidence started to waver with the increasing number of participants failing afterward.
Just before it was his turn, Edvard stood before a particularly large man. It was obvious that he was having no trouble with the exercise on its own, and his bulging muscles made even the likes of Austin look normal in comparison.
Alas, as soon as Edvard looked the man in the eyes, he sat down on the floor before Innu even had the chance to blink. Unlike those before him, there was no resistance at all this time.
'For weak-minded three-star Hunter like him, it’s best if they fail here. They are not ready to make the jump. Giving them a position higher than they deserve will only serve as a quick way to send them to their death.' Edvard thought to himself, as he went over to the next person.
He paused for a slight moment as he looked at Innu. 'This was the one that Fang took an interest in. Let's see if his interest in this newbie is warranted.'
Hearing the command, Innu felt the same sensation as Blake. He imagined he had the axe in his hands… but for some reason he was unable to draw out the power of the Qi. It just wasn’t working, and his right knee was getting ever closer to the floor.
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