LUCAS WYKES’ POV:
Staring down at the professors struggling to stand back up—the very mages that I strove to become—it was clear to me that their lives were in my hands. With my newfound powers, these so-called “elites” were now nothing more than ants to me.
Enhanced cognitive processing capabilities for higher levels of spell casting.
A nearly unlimited pool of mana for me to access and utilize.
Heightened reflexes along with strengthened physical prowess and dexterity.
The elixir that Draneeve had given me really fulfilled its purpose. Just like he had promised, it truly brought forth my full potential.
It was obvious since early on that I was a gifted mage. However, being outshined by my older brother, Bairon, my accomplishments were never able to satisfy my family’s expectations. I had lived my childhood chasing after his insurmountable shadow, but no longer; I felt like I had finally surpassed him.
Easily wiping out the distinguished professors of this academy, it felt like I had actually transcended the realm of mortals, incomparable to even the highest of human, elven, and dwarven mages.
… so why was I feeling this way?
This feeling of an icy claw gripping my innards, slowly twisting, slow freezing my insides.
The palpable pressure in the air seemed to make the force of gravity in the vicinity stronger as he approached.
Beads of cold sweat began forming, drenching my clothes, as I unknowingly took a step back.
Was I afraid?
That was impossible.
With my newfound powers, I was invincible. I was all-powerful. I was perfect.
“Welcome to the party, Arthur. You’re just in time,” I jeered, satisfied with the calm timbre of my voice.
He said nothing as he continued his way toward me at a suspensefully slow pace.
My gaze shifted from Arthur to the obsidian dragon behind him. I had read in a book that the dragon race had already gone extinct from being hunted down. I would normally be more taken aback, but at this point, compared to the terrifying intensity emanating from Arthur, his dragon looked no more threatening than a common lizard.
His steps never faltered, never swayed, as he approached the bell tower. I couldn’t make out what sort of expression he had; his eyes were covered by his bangs.
The atmosphere was deathly silent, as even the senseless mana beasts that Draneeve controlled instinctively knew to prostrate in submission.
“Impressive pet. Did you think it could help you now? Look around you! All of this—it was done by me! The professors that were so highly regarded? I stepped on them like disease-ridden pests,” I chuckled, taking a few steps toward the boy I once regarded as my equal.
The dragon behind him let out a deafening roar that made the surrounding audience wince in fear, but I didn’t.
No. As much as I hated to admit, it wasn’t the dragon that gave me this feeling of unease; it was Arthur.
Unaffected by my taunts, he wordlessly made his way towards me.
Some of the students had already defeated Draneeve’s minions, only a few mana beasts remained on my side. However, they were petrified in fear; whether that was due to Arthur or the dragon, I would never know.
As he got closer, it dawned on me…
He wasn’t even looking at me. His gaze had never been directed at me!
My feet stayed glued to the ground, stunned, as he simply strode past, ignoring me and everyone else here.
How dare he!
I could easily crush him right now; he should be pleading, begging for me to spare him and his friends.
But instead, he had the audacity to treat me like air?
My clenched fists turned white.
Passing by everyone else he knew, disregarding his dying or dead peers and friends, Arthur kneeled down in front of the elf princess. His dragon craned its neck down towards her as well, and for that long breath of a moment, there was only silence.
Knowing exactly what to do, my lips curled up into a smirk. Let’s see him ignore this.
“She was crying for you, you know,” I taunted.
“Oh sure, she stayed strong at first. It made it all the more satisfying seeing her break down,” I chuckled.
His shoulders twitched a bit.
His dragon looked back at me, its eyes piercing me with a ferocity that might’ve frightened me before.
“You see, I wanted to play with your little elf princess more, but Draneeve told me not to lay a hand on her. I was going to disagree at first but an idea struck me—what better way to break you than have you lay helplessly on the ground as you watch me cripple the girl you care for so much?” My laugh echoed throughout the academy as everyone else watched, unable to even muster up the courage to utter a word.
The dragon let out a grunt and looked like it was about to charge at me when it abruptly froze.
My face twitched in rage as Arthur continued to wordlessly cling onto his little elf lover. He still chose to ignore me?
“Arthur Leywin! You dare ignore me?” I roared. “You think you’re so much better than me? Let’s see you go easy on me now! I’ll break every bone in your body so you can only cry helplessly as I desecrate Tessia right—”
My words got caught in my throat as the ground abruptly splintered and crumpled underneath Arthur like a sheet of paper, making me stumble.
I regained my balance and looked back up at Arthur, whose back was still facing me as he gently laid the elf princess back on the ground. All of a sudden, I was hit with the same sensation as earlier— the frigid, emotionless grip of a demon, twisting at my insides, wringing the air out of my lungs.
As if the wind had been knocked out of me, air escaped my throat as choppy and shallow gasps.
Unable to compose myself, I looked down at my hands to see that they were trembling.
I realised it wasn’t just my hands but my whole body shuddered uncontrollably from the very core.
What was happening to my body? Why was I reacting this way towards some boy my age? It should be impossible for him to be stronger than me, yet… what was this sense of—
He turned around.
I would never have thought that something as simple as eye contact could be so terrifying until his pale blue eyes, sharp as a knife, met mine, and the remaining air in my lungs was sucked out.
And suddenly, I realized what I had been feeling the entire time, the word to describe the emotions I couldn’t grasp…
No! I refuse to admit this!
I ignored the inaudible scream of protest deep in my mind that was begging me to flee, to escape in the opposite direction from him.
“Oh, am I finally worthy of your attention?” I spat out mockingly, struggling to keep my voice from shaking.
“Lucas.” Arthur was a peasant who had such a banal background that his existence would normally amount to less than a retired mule, while I was born into the Wykes family, which birthed the most talented mages this continent had seen. Yet his voice rang with such glaring authority that it made me almost kneel on impulse.
“I thought of you as nothing more than a mere wasp I deemed unnecessary to kill,” Arthur continued with a chill edge to his voice as he once again began walking towards me.
“But even the holiest of saints would swat it down, without hesitation, if said wasp so much as dared to sting him.” His cold, emotionless eyes, empty and frozen, never broke contact with mine as a tangible bloodlust gripped at my limbs like shackles.
He was comparing me to a bug. No, he truly saw me as a bug. Yet any words of rebuttal or protest refused to leave my mouth.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My powers should now be greater than his. So why was this happening? How could a boy a year younger frighten me more than Draneeve? How many legions of men and beasts did he have to murder in order to possess such suffocating, oppressive killing intent?
Even the very earth seemed heedful of Arthur as the ground sunk down with each step he took.
My heart pounded harder and harder against my ribcage as if it wanted to break out and escape. My vision blurred as cold beads of sweat rolled down from my forehead into my eyes.
Tearing my gaze away from Arthur, I focused on Tessia. The dragon had curled up protectively around the elf princess, leaving me no opening to make use of her.
Silently, as Arthur advanced closer, I saw it. In his eyes was a raging tempest, so hungry to create mayhem, just barely contained.
But I was Lucas Wykes, second-born of Otis Vayhur Wykes! Elite mages of Xyrus Academy had been brought to their knees by my overwhelming strength. Arthur was nothing but a lowly peasant—his only luck was being born with a decent talent for magic!
My mind snapped into a state of desperation and frenzy as I fought down the burning desire to run. Him, scare me? Never. I would rather die than plead for my life.