Chapter 156 – Unfazed (Part 1)
Leo didn’t have time to be surprised by Zachary’s speed as he approached in an instant giving him to space to move away from him!
‘How the hell did his speed increase instead of decrease after turning into stone!’ Leo thought as he dodged fist after fist inches from his face.
“How the did his speed increase instead of decrease after turning into stone!” one of the students in the front rows shouted in shock (far less than Leo’s) after witnessing the scene of Zachary turning into a grey boxing machine!
“Idiot don’t know you!? That skill is super famous! This guy is a legacy student at Lumea because everybody in his family has trained in the Iron Body skill! It uses earth attributed mana to forcefully change the cells of the skin into different hardened properties. When it’s first trained it’s used for defense, but the more talented a person is the higher he can train it. Zachary is a top 10 2nd year because he’s trained it all the way to the Iron stage! It increases his defense, speed and attack!”
“How the hell does it do all that?! That skill is magical!”
“Only those who practice it would know.”
Thomas, Damien and Daichi all heard that particular conversation through different methods as they gazed at Leo dodge each strike by hair’s breath. Thomas’s gaze was turning worried. ‘At this rate this guy is going to get crushed! I thought they could help. I suppose it’s already a lot that he can even put up this much of a struggle with Zachary fighting in full iron mode. Even Marcos didn’t do that… Even Marcos didn’t do that!’
In that instant Thomas realized that Leo was already fighting Zachary on a different level that Marcos had managed. Most of the crowd was screaming and yelling or looking down at Leo contemptuously but a few people were keenly observing with interested expressions having come to the same realization.
Thomas forcefully pried his eyes away from the arena only to see two completely unconcerned gazes from Daichi and Damien.
‘How are these guys not worried? One hit and their friend is done for!’
It was only as he stared at their unconcerned expressions a few extra seconds that an idea struck him ‘Unless this isn’t his limit?’ Thomas immediately turned his eyes back to the fight focusing on every detail.
A pit formed at the bottom of Thomas’s stomach as he considered Leo’s ability. Thomas was fully aware that all three of them were likely also first year students. He was now certain they were some of the extremely lucky or extremely promising students that were chosen by a teacher to be taken in as disciples rather than mere students already.
The rarity of such a thing was not something to be underestimated!
In all of Lumea there were only a limited number of teachers. The position was highly sought after. Those who were lucky enough to be granted the position would have a general safe haven, status in Lumea academy and the city, and most importantly; they were given access to materials, knowledge and areas with concentrated mana. It was a paradise for any and all who sought to grow their knowledge or power!
All the academy asked in return is that they adhere to the rules of the academy, perform a few perfunctory tasks every so often. Mediate serious problems in-between the students if need be and protect the academy. In contrast to the alternative dangers of being a guardsman for the city or getting involved in what many considered fruitless politics in the city, staying within the academy was the highest goal for any individual with ambition for greater power.
Therefore; it was already rare for a teacher to determine a student to have enough potential for them to waste their own time they could be growing stronger to nurture someone else. It was even more rare for a teacher to choose a 1st year student. First year students were completely untested, unproven and basically babies in the eyes of the higher ups. The pit forming in Thomas’s stomach was the realization that for these students to have been absent ever since he joined the academy could only mean one thing… ‘They were chosen as disciples on their first day.’
It was enough to make him completely focus on the fight between Leo and Zachary. ‘Zachary is only the 10th on the strong ranking for the 2nd years… But to reach the top 10 here is a feat. At my current strength… I can’t beat him. If this guy can beat him… That would mean he’s stronger than me, and I am technically the strongest within the first years…’
Leo’s mind was only slightly fazed at first, but he quickly adjusted. Almost immediately after Zachary begun his flurry of attacks did he began to infuse mana throughout his body. Using the technique that Lydia taught him he can focus the mana into his legs. As he used speed to dodge.
His skill at using mana to enhance his muscles was no-where near as refined as Lydia’s. He lacked the overall finesse and control but he could still enhance his speed nearly three-fold.
Even his eyesight was enhanced and after his constant training with Lydia, even after Zachary’s speed burst to a new level he was still able to keep track of his movements and adjust his speed accordingly!
Even as he dodged, Leo kept his cool but inwardly he was annoyed. He hadn’t expected Zachary to be such a smart opponent. He could vaguely tell that Zachary was mad, it was evident in his grunts and flurry of fists that came whizzing past his cheeks, his shoulders, his chest, barely missing by inches… But there was nothing he could do in response!
Zachary had assumed that the hint of instinctual fright he’d felt before was due to Leo and so before he lost his cool had already ingrained a battle plan. He was after all not an idiot. Few of the students that could comprehend a worthwhile skill and surpass their peers at Lumea were simple. After seeing Leo draw his sword, he concluded that he was Marcos’s friend and more importantly that he was a swordsman!
Although he couldn’t be certain, Zachary was an instinctual fighter. Instead of doubting his first conclusion, he formed a battle plan around it and relied on the confidence he had in himself and his abilities to follow through even amidst his anger. He instantly decided to fight to his strengths; His Iron body skill!
Because the Iron Body skill only affected his body, he had been taught numerous hand-to-hand martial arts from his family since childhood. Even though he’d been trained in the ways of the sword, it was but a secondary skill compared to his hand-to-hand martial arts. Therefore, he decided to fight seriously from the start, and when Leo’s words and actions angered him, he let himself go!
He closed in on Leo and began a flurry of boxing techniques using his footworks to close-in and stay at an in-fighting distance making use of his strengths; his Iron Body defense-offense while forcing Leo into a range where he couldn’t attack his sword at all!
Unable to find an opening to attack, Leo was forced to dodge and wait for an opening. His hope that at some point Zachary would make a mistake or tire out and he could launch an attack!
The more attacks he dodged… The closer the attacks came to reaching his body!
Leo was slowly realizing that despite his anger Zachary had not thrown reason to the wayside. He was not using any large attacks giving him no openings to counter or even exploit to pull away from him.
‘Not good! He’s not tiring out!’ Leo’s eyes widened as a straight punch came barreling towards his chest, Leo was already slightly out of position and didn’t have the time to dodge! Instinctively he tilted his body to face away from Zachary and took the punch on the shoulder instead.
*Ugh!* Leo grunted in pain but the punch as a springboard as he launched himself backwards at the moment of impact to lessen the strength of the punch and to gain some much needed distance!
Everybody in the crowd was stunned as Leo didn’t fall to the ground in defeat! He just pulled away continually. Leaping backwards several times to get more distance while he could.
Much to his surprise Zachary didn’t follow but instead his face darkened as he looked at his fist.
The crowd was silent for a moment before a few girls broke the tension in the air.
“That guy isn’t too bad!”
“What’re you talking about!? Zachary is so dreamy! I’ve never seen him fight like this before! He’s amazing!”
“That it though! This 1st year is good enough to make Zachary fight like this!”
“He’s friends with that guy from before right??”
There were quite a few different responses and whispers through the crowd. The students are Lumea were quite a diverse bunch. Although the backgrounds didn’t differ much, either nobles who raised their children with all of the advantages the world still had to offer or children who had been fighting, hunting, and gathering their entire lives to survive. The true diversity came in their ages.
Lumea Academy accepted children within the ranges of 12 to 20. Albeit it was rare for an actual 12 year old to be accepted. They would need exceptional talent or affinity for an art or mana, and just as important an amount of bravery usually unseen in a child that age. It was also just as rare for 20 year olds to be accepted. Some children waited until they were older or were forced to take the exam at 20 because they failed before, but in most cases children who were admitted were between the ages of 14-18.
This was the ideal range for the academy, not because it was necessarily the best age to cultivate the children entering the academy and to nurture their talents… Rather it was because Lumea was no longer in the same position as it once was. It once fostered applicants from various cities across the continent. It had the liberty to be picky with their standards, but now the academy was the last refuge for what seemed to the inhabitants of Lumea City as the last refuge of mankind.
The professors who could be chosen to teach and were capable enough do a good job were a limited few and not all those who could would. With such limited number of professors, the academy had once fostered an even younger range of students at the beginning but quickly learned how much of a failure that was. Leaving children 12-15 with little supervision, insufficient professors or even older children to stand up for the younger ones… Too many were dissuaded, too many took the wrong paths, too many quit!
Leo quickly shook off the pain in his shoulder. Looking over at Zachary slightly startled he hadn’t followed up his attack, only to find Zachary looking at him with a similar look of surprise.