'My goal is one minute and twenty-eight seconds...'
Setting a goal in his mind, Ren watched as the world around him lost color and his emotions disappeared alongside it.
Fear, nervousness, confidence, any and all emotions just disappeared.
In his mind, there was only one goal.
Reach one minute and twenty-eight seconds.
Regardless of the costs.
Following the beeping sound, Ren closed his eyes.
Ta.Ta.Ta. Fiddling with a small ring on his finger, Ren calmly stood rooted in his spot. Within seconds the dummies were already upon him.
Lifting his head slightly, Ren opened his eyes and placed his hand on the sheat of his sword.
A second passed and over thirty dummies appeared within inches of his body.
—Shuaa! —Shuaa! —Shuaa!
The sound of the air splitting reverberated across the space as each dummy swung their dulled weapon in Ren's direction.
To those that were spectating, it looked as though Ren had just given up.
Even as all of the dummies were attacking him at the same time, Ren stood still.
Some of the spectators couldn't watch anymore and turned their eyes away.
Although they knew that the contestants were going to be safe, just the visual impact of Ren getting attacked from all sides caused them to turn their heads away.
"What are you doing!"
Screams echoed across the stands as some spectators stood up and shouted at the large monitor above.
The screams intensified even more once everyone could no longer see Ren's figure displayed on the screen.
All they could see at the moment were a pile of dummies on the same spot he was standing before.
It was then that something shocking happened...
Following a subtle clicking sound, the volume of the arena grounds decreased.
The spectators who were watching Ren's match couldn't find any words to say as their mouth's hung wide open. Some even started stuttering as they pointed at the monitor above
"W-what just happened?"
"How is...this possible?"
Murmurs and discussions echoed across the arena grounds as everyone stared at the large monitor above.
They couldn't believe what they were seeing.
Standing in the middle of the room was Ren's apathetic figure. His calm and indifferent eyes were displayed for the whole world to see.
From his demenour, it looked as though this was nothing to him.
Most shockingly, around him, over half of the dummies present in the room had turned red as they formed a small circle around him.
This scene was deeply etched in the spectator's eyes as they all stood up and cheered.
"Huaaa—!" "Huaaa—!" "Huaaa—!"
The spectator's blood was boiling. How could it not?
Watching as Ren singlehandedly dispatched over half of the dummies in a single move caused almost everyone to be shocked.
Furthermore, no one knew how he did it as the cameras were blocked by the dummies.
The battle was still not over though.
Ren had only gotten rid of half of the dummies. Everyone also noticed this as they quickly stopped cheering and kept their eyes glued on the large screen.
They didn't want to miss a single second of what was about to come.
...and they were glad they didn't.
Without even letting Ren take a breather, the remaining dummies attacked him from all sides.
Click. Click. Click. Subtle clicking sound resounded across the arena grounds as more and more dummies fell on the ground.
No one could see Ren's movements, but his cold and indifferent image was deeply imprinted in their minds.
He looked like an awe-inspiring general that reaped through the lives of all of the enemies that go in his path.
Every second a dummy turned red. Such a shocking scene repeated over and over again as the dummies around Ren turned red without him even moving.
It was breathtaking.
Unfortunately, even though Ren had taken down half of the dummies, there were still a lot of dummies left that relentlessly attacked him from all sides.
Most of the time there would be rings around Ren to block their attacks, but sometimes an attack would make it past his defense and hit him directly.
At first, they thought it was because Ren's defense wasn't that great.
But it was then that people began to realize...
Ren was doing it on purpose.
He was purposely using his body to absorb the impact coming from some of the attacks so that he could make a quick counterattack.
He was sacrificing his body to reduce the time!
Everyone who witnessed this couldn't help but feel their hairs stand. Just how could anyone put their body under so much torture? Was it worth it?
Everyone wanted to know.
As the seconds passed, it became plain to see for everyone present that Ren's physical state was worsening by the second as his left hand drooped a bit.
It was either broken or dislocated.
Ren didn't seem to care. He remained completely unfazed throughout the whole time. Dodge, get hit, kill. He repeated this over and over again.
The audience was breathless. They couldn't remove their eyes off of the screen. They watched the fight as though they were entranced.
Startling everyone out of their stupor was the sonorous beep coming from the speaker of the arena's marking the end of the game.
Staring at Ren's figure who was indifferently looking at the last dummy on the floor, the crowd went into a frenzy.
"Huaaa—!" "Huaaa—!" "Huaaa—!"
Thunderous cheers resounded across the arena grounds.
[Contenstant, Ren Dover; Time ➤ 1: 31 seconds]
On this day, Ren's name was deeply imprinted into every's spectator's mind.
Right after the Dummy Massacre finals ended. Inside of a narrow and secluded corridor.
"Cough...Cough...this is why I don't use this skill often"
Leaning against the side of a wall, I repeatedly coughed as I felt my lungs burning. They felt like they were on fire.
Trying my best to move forward, I could barely keep my eyes focused as everything around me looked wobbly.
Like a drunken person, I roamed around the corridor of the arena grounds.
Although I tried my best to look fine after I finished my game, once I arrived at a secluded space, away from everyone's eyes, I started coughing uncontrollably.
'Damn it, I overdid it...'
As I was under the influence of Monarch's indifference throughout the whole game, I was unable to properly control what I was doing.
My body moved on its own to achieve the goal that I had set in my mind beforehand. Beating one minute and twenty-eight seconds.
...Unfortunately, I had completely overlooked the fact that under Monarch's indifference, I wasn't the same person.
Apart from achieving my goal, I cared nothing about anything else. Even if it resulted in me getting severely injured.
I could still vividly remember feeling my body getting battered all over by the dummies as I stood motionless waiting for them to completely surround me before using the second movement of the Keiki style.
In one swift movement, I managed to get rid of about half of the dummies. It was the most appropriate move given the time frame I had.
...but it was also what resulted in me sustaining serious internal injuries.
Although the Lock had set up a system where it would stop a game once the contestant was too severely injured, from how I was still not kicked out, my injuries were not enough to stop the game.
This most likely stemmed from the fact that I only sacrificed the areas that were less important.
...but, as my body continued to aim for the goal, my internal injuries worsened.
Throughout the whole game, I felt immeasurable amounts of pain being transmitted all over my body.
...yet my body completely ignored it.
As if the pain was only the fruit of my imagination, my body ignored everything and aimed to kill the dummies in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
Regardless of how much damage I was receiving.
In the end, after everything was over, my overall time ended up being one minute and thirty-one seconds.
Three seconds slower than my target score.
Back then I thought that I had failed, but once I got out and felt countless stares coming from the spectators, I knew that something was wrong.
As I turned around and saw Aerin's score, one minute and forty-eight seconds, reality finally struck me.
The information that I had gotten from Melissa was wrong.
Without a doubt, the difficulty was much higher than it was supposed to be.
"Damn you Meliss—pfffftt..."
Abruptly stopping myself from speaking, I felt something sweet going up my throat. Not long after, blood spurted out from my mouth.
Staring at blood-stained hands, I cursed underneath my breath. My vision soon darkened and I slowly lost consciousness.
"I'm sorry brother."
On the other hand, Aerin returned to her academy's waiting room. Standing before her brother, Aerin's head hung low.
"I-I really thought that I could win."
She muttered as her voice shook.
Prior to entering the match, she was confident that she could win the match. She really did think so.
Especially once she saw her score of one minute and forty-eight seconds. It was the best score she could've possibly have gotten.
Her hopes were completely crushed once she found out that her opponent's time was even faster than hers.
...and not even by a close margin. A whopping seventeen seconds faster than her!
This completely crushed her spirit.
"It's okay. I'm not mad."
Patting Aerin on the head, Nicholas comforted her.
"Your opponent was just as skillful as you. You're both the same rank and from the looks of it, his sword art specializes in speed. Furthermore, he also had a mysterious skill that I presume specializes in targeting multiple opponents at once. This outcome was to be expected. Moreover..."
Nicholas's eyes squinted as he turned his head towards a nearby TV. Displayed on it were the highlights of Aerin's and Ren's games.
Aerin replied as she lifted her head slightly.
"...You may not know this, but your opponent put his body on the line during the game."
"What do you mean?"
Aerin tilted her head to the side.
Nicholas pointed at the TV screen displaying Ren's highlights and explained.
"If you watch the replay of the match, compared to you where you directly avoided and dodged all of the dummies and counterattacked, Ren chose a more reckless approach."
"More reckless approach?"
There was a hint of confusion in Aerin's voice as she wondered what her brother meant.
"Yes, he chose to not avoid the dummies attacks and directly used his body as a shield. Take a look at the TV"
Under her brother's instructions, Aerin turned her head and directed her attention towards a nearby TV.
She then watched as Ren recklessly used his body to defend some of the attacks coming from the dummies. By her side, Nicholas continued explaining.
"By sacrificing his body, he was essentially saving precious seconds that you used on dodging some of the attacks. Though it could've gone wrong as he could've been eliminated for getting too injured, if done well, this strategy would've without a doubt have been the most optimal for getting a high score in the dummy massacred games."
Nicholas paused for a second before praising.
"His willingness to give it everything he's got for victory explains the huge gap between you two. Your loss was without merit."
A solemn look appeared on Aerin's face as she looked at the highlights displayed on the TV.
Because of how frustrated she was at her loss, Aerin did not have time to see Ren's performance.
Watching it now, Aerin finally understood why she lost. It was because she put it her all like Ren had done.
Watching the highlights now, Aerin found a whole new level of respect for her opponent. If he was willing to go that far to win the game, then she could only accept her loss.
Standing next to Aerin, Nicholas satisfyingly nodded his head as he comforted.
"Don't worry. You were up against someone crazy. Someone that would even risk getting injured severely to win. You didn't lose without merit. Let's redeem ourselves in the battle royale games."
Aerin replied as her mood improved a bit.
'That's right, nothing's lost yet.'
Just because she lost this game didn't mean that everything was over. There were still the battle royale games.
'I'll definitely redeem myself there!'
She swore to herself as her fists clenched tightly.
"Good. Let's show them what we are really made of when we are working together."
Nicholas smiled as he looked at Aerin who seemed to have regained some of her previous confidence.
Many people may have forgotten because of Aerin's amazing performances, but Aerin was not at her best when she was by herself.
Aerin was only at her best when she was working with her brother. Nicholas.
Together, no one could stop them.
A short groan left my mouth. My body ached everywhere.
A pungent smell of alcohol invaded my nostril as my eyelids slowly opened up.
"Ghh, what the hell happened?"
Massaging the right side of my head, I felt a massive headache.
My memories at the moment were faint. I could barely remember anything that happened moments prior to me waking up here.
The only thing I remembered was leaving the arena grounds before everything suddenly turned dark and found myself waking up with my body aching all over.
Startling me out of my thoughts was a crisp and captivating voice. Turning my head slightly, I found Amanda sitting on a chair next to me peeling an apple.
'What's she doing here?'
I wondered as I took a proper look at my surroundings.
Decorated in white, I realized that I was in what seemed to be a hospital room as I found an electrical vital sign monitor next to the bed I was on.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The constant repetitive beeping sound was a testament that I wasn't still dreaming.
"What are you doing here?...and where am I?"
I curiously asked.
"You're at the academy nursing area."
Amanda calmly responded as she took a bite of the apple she peeled.
"Kevin was supposed to be here but he's currently participating in the finals of his game so he left me to watch over you."
Muttering softly, I looked at the ceiling above me. My memories were starting to return to me.
More specifically, the memories of me recklessly sacrificing my body under Monarch's indifference.
'...I really fucked up this time.'
From the top all the way to the bottom. I could barely even feel my body. Everything ached so badly.
It was as though I had just been rammed by a car going at 80 km/h. I felt like crap.
"...You know, everyone was worried about you once they found out that you passed out in the middle of the corridor."
Putting the knife that she used to cut the apple down, Amanda disrupted my thoughts as she icily glared in my direction.
"Three broken ribs, a punctured lung, one dislocated shoulder, and a concussion. Those are the injuries you sustained whilst you participating in that game."
Her every word sent shivers down my spine.
The more she spoke, the more I could feel the anger and frustration she had towards me.
"What were you thinking? Don't you have a sister that is watching you at home? What would she think if she saw your state on TV?"
She then paused.
"Why are you willing to go so far for a game?"
"...I don't know."
I responded after a short pause.
Because I didn't want to let the other know about my skills, it was the only way I could respond.
"You don't know?"
Amanda's voice became even colder.
"So you just reduced your body to this state because of a whim?"
I was at a loss for words.
Honestly, had Melissa not screwed me over, I would've never have found myself in such a situation.
Although I would've still have used Monarch's indifference, I probably would've sustained fewer injuries.
With each passing second that I was getting close to the score that Melissa told me, I started becoming bolder and bolder.
Bolder wasn't the right term...
With every second that I was inching closer to the goal that I had set in my mind, my body started to become more and more reckless.
The closer I was to the goal, the more desperate I was starting to get. Even if it resulted in my body getting severely injured. All my mind thought at that moment was 'One minute and twenty-eight seconds.'
Nothing else mattered.
...and it was because of that mindset that my body got so injured that not long after the games ended, I directly passed out on the ground.
"Listen, I'm sorr—"
"...P-please don't do this again...Promise?"
Right as I was about to apologize, I abruptly stopped.
That was because I suddenly heard Amanda faintly whispering something.
At her last words, Amanda's voice choked up a little. It was very faint, but from where I was laying down I could hear it.
I was instantly at a loss. My throat dried up a little as I couldn't find the right words to say.
Why would she go as far as choking up a little over my injuries? I really didn't understand.
Was it because of all of the stress she was facing recently regarding her father's disappearance? Or was it because she was genuinely worried about me?
I didn't know for sure, but even so. Lifting my pinky, I smiled slightly.
"Alright, I promise."
Unless the situation called for it, I would never act recklessly like today.
Not just for me, but for those that cared for me.
Similarly lifting her pinky, Amanda hooked her pinky around mine and shook it.
"Don't go back on your words."
Amanda softly whispered as she let go of my pinky.
"I'll try my best."
After that, silence enveloped the room. But neither one of us minded this as I closed my eyes and recuperated from my injuries.
Besides me, I could hear the sound of Amanda chewing on an apple.
It was oddly peaceful.
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