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Chapter 22 - The Gauntlet



Vico impaled the spear on the ground and grinned. "Now, ye soft bones follow me."

They made their way to the center of the stadium with a door placed on the ground. Vico said while caressing his pointy beard, "We will contact a test for ye and 'tis divided into two parts. Yer ability in using a weapon or bare hands and an obstacle course."

He shouted, "Bring it up, boys!"

From beneath the door, it opened and spawned a large construct made of wood, iron, and other materials that stretched for over 330 feet (100 meters) in length. It was a marvel of mechanical construction in Emery's beaming eyes, who also liked complex creations.

"Let me introduce ye to the gauntlet!" said Vico with a big smile from ear to ear. He added, "If ye can pass this gauntlet to the end, then ye've passed our first test."

The construct cranked and started to come alive. It had at least a hundred pikes stabbing from beneath and the side of the walking platform, blades and axes swinging in all directions, spinning mechanisms that had a large bag that would ensure one would fall if got caught and all other manners of traps placed on the various areas of the course.

The first year acolytes, including Emery and his friends swallowed hard as the blades, axes, pikes appeared to be live weapons. Some acolytes actually even started walking away from the construct since this gauntlet looked so scary that they couldn't help but think this would be the end of their life. They were first-year acolytes; they weren't willing to waste their lives for this. After all for most of them, this institute of combat was just an extra skill not as important as the other institutes.

Vico simply laughed and didn't care about the acolytes running away. "Hahaha, of course ye won't die from this course — on yer first try, at least."

From the ground behind Vico, hundreds of boxes also spawned out and Vico pulled out an armor that looked like it was made of thick leather. He threw it to a man on his side.

After the assistant finished wearing it, he then proceeded to get on the obstacle, dodged a couple of traps, making his way to the middle and purposely got hit on one of the swinging blades. He was knocked down from the gauntlet and some of the acolytes watching closed their eyes from how loud and hard the assistant had hit the ground. The assistant, however, got back up like nothing had happened and took off the thick leather.

"This protector is one of our basic magic items made by our small craftsmans. It gives ye limited protection from attacks, but can only be used fer only once," Vico explained.

The first year acolytes discussed with their friends and didn't appear convinced they could finish this course. There were hundreds of traps after all.

"Aside from the gauntlet, ye can take the other test first if ye'd like," said Vico at the decreasing crowd of acolytes. He snapped his finger and dozens of small circular fields formed around them.


The circle was 33 feet(10 meters) in diameter, and in the center was a wooden puppet with hands, legs, and all with the size of the average youth, around 5 ft 4 inch(163 centimeters) in height.

"Tis' 'ere is the main training equipment our institute provides to all ye soft bones. Ye all could fight with tis' puppets all ye want and learn as much as ye can. If ye managed to defeat the wooden puppets, the better," Vico said. Then a giant cube floated in the middle of the field and a list of names appeared.

1. Damien – acolyte rank 3 – level 6

2. Tori – acolyte rank 3 – level 6

3. Vida – acolyte rank 4 – level 5

4. Zurui – acolyte rank 3 – level 5

5. Axel – acolyte rank 2 – level 5

Despite hundreds had already run away after Vico's demonstrations of the institute's equipment, there were thousands first year acolytes names listed in the ranking who had taken wooden puppet combat test in the first three days.

"Tis' board here is the results of the rankings of those who have fought against the wooden puppets for the first time. Whichever of the two tests ye'd like to take, do what ye want. The ranking board, mind ye, is the real kicker in being selected as a disciple for one of the combat magi. They be selecting their disciples 'till nightfall arrive. Ohh, they seem to be 'ere," said Vico, looking at the five men who had just arrived. Most of them were also large people like Vico, except for the one on the furthest left appeared to be slender.

Emery watched as the five combat magi made their way to the podium located on the side of the stadium. The one who had a slender body seemed to have noticed Emery's stare and Emery started to feel a heavy pressure bearing down on him before disappearing on the next second.

"Hey, you okay, Emery?"

Emery twisted his neck to see who it was that spoke and found Chumo looking at him. He asked, "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Chumo.. I hardly heard you speak."


"That… well… how should i say this.. actually I get too nervous when speaking if there's a women around… and Klea's… She's scary…" Chumo answered, slightly shaking his head.

"…"

Vico's booming voice drowned out Emery's and Chumo's discussion. "The gauntlet and fighting wooden puppets, 'tis two will be yer tests for today and ye all can start whenever ye like!"

Remaining hundreds of acolytes dispersed and made their way to their preferred test. There were only a few that walked toward the obstacle and the wooden puppets were the more popular choice.

Thrax was cracking his fist and was raring to give the wooden puppets a good beating. "Alright! Action! I'll imagine those Kalios pigs as these wooden puppets and beat them up real good!"

He entered the circle and a list of items appeared in front of him and he unhesitantly chose a spear. The wooden puppet sprang to life and a wooden spear appeared on both him and the wooden puppet.

Thrax got into position with the spear above him and so did the wooden puppet. A countdown appeared in Thrax's vision.

[3…2…1… Fight!]

Thrax let out a loud shout as he thrust the spear straight to the wooden puppets chest. It missed as the wooden puppet jumped to the side but Thrax was expecting that and he spun toward the wooden puppet direction and punched it on the face, felling it to the ground, before impaling its chest with the spear.

The wooden puppet stopped moving and a tiny light like a floating dew seemed to have exited the wooden puppet's broken body and entered Thrax's chest.

[complete level one combat puppet – reward received]

Thrax breathed out as his muscles tightened. He checked out his status and said, "Oh wow! My battle power has gone up by one!"

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