In truth, Daren Solaris knew that it was a massive battle simulator - one of YeLan Academy’s highlights. It was rumoured to have been specially developed by the headmaster and had been a deciding factor in Daren’s decision to attend YeLan Academy.
Upon entering the simulator, a large screen appeared before Daren. On-screen was a sagely old man, whose face was covered with so many wrinkles that mosquitoes dared not land on it for fear of being squashed in the drooping facial folds. But this “virtuous” old man revealed a slightly cheeky smile and said flippantly,
“Hello my little friend, I am the headmaster of YeLan Academy, Antonias1. Please enter your account name and password, then you may battle to your heart’s content.”
“I don’t have an account or a password,” Daren honestly replied.
“I see, you’re a new friend. Not to worry, come create an account and we’ll be good to go. Pick any alias you like,” the irreverent old man said smilingly.
Daren thought for a second and said, “Dark Sun, password is xxxx.”
“I see, my little friend Dark Sun, choose a battle suit and weapon that you prefer.” As soon as Antonias finished speaking, rows of battle suits stacked as high as the sky appeared by his side. There were suits ranging from Pikachu-themed suspenders and blue-white slippers, to Mazinger’s2 suits; even weapons ranging from blackboard dusters and chalk to tanks and cannons were available.
Daren playfully looked through the arsenal of options; initially he had wanted to decline any weapons because Dark Sun was a weapon in itself, but gege’s instruction arose again.
(Do not let others discover your abilities!)
If that’s the case, then I can’t go into battle... Daren thought. From the corner of his eyes, Daren suddenly spied a simple suit with virtually no defensive capabilities. It was a pink shirt with matching jeans and knee-high boots. Its most important aspect was the protective visor.
Daren’s plan was simple; as long as others could not recognise him, he could fulfill Dark Sun’s basic functions without violating Gege’s instructions.
“I want that suit.” said Daren gesturing towards the simple outfit.
Instantly, the outfit was superimposed on Daren. He then messed up his hair in order to prevent himself from being discovered. While admiring his reflection, he noticed that his lean frame had become more pronounced by his shirt and his height was well emphasized by his jeans and high boots. Even his messy hair served to make him look more suave.
Wiping off his faint smile, Daren strengthened his disguise further by retrieving the serious unsmiling facade of Dark Sun from his microchip. In a flash, all traces of a smile vanished from his face, and his nerdy demeanor turned sinister.
“As for the weapon?”
Dark Sun frowned; he knew he could not refrain from using a weapon. It would inevitably take lives if he were to fight live participants with real weapons, therefore, he could only rely on virtual weapons to avoid hurting anyone. Though, his laboratory simulations had all been with live weapons.
“Give me a dagger and a handgun.”
The holster was clipped onto Dark Sun’s right thigh and the dagger attached to the inside of his boot.
“Since it’s your first time entering, I, Antonias, will give you a brief explanation. Your opponents can be anything from bizarre species and robots to little girls and even pregnant women. Some of them might be virtual, others your classmates. You can form alliances, or treat everyone as your enemy. In any case, the last survivor is the victor. Have a happy battle, Dark Sun.”
The doors to the simulator gradually opened and a ray of light emerged from within. Dark Sun turned towards it slowly and waited to enter.
Battle simulator, activated.
When it came to battle simulators, Daren could not be more familiar. Ever since he was seven, his entire life had revolved around check ups, operations, non stop battles and helping researchers accumulate data for further improvement.
Analysis: Battle scenario no different from reality. 26 enemies nearby, 20 of which expressing hostility, 10 with intent to attack, 2 within danger zone.
“Where did this idiot come from? Choosing a suit with no defenses. He must thinks he’s some sort of celebrity, trying to play cool like that.”
“Ha! So ridiculous! Look at him. He’s actually carrying a hand gun. He’s just asking to be killed.”
Daren turned around and saw two people dressed in light battle armour. One had a sub-machine gun and the other had a shotgun.
“Alright, kill him quick - there are still lots of people to blast. Hahaha!”
The person holding the sub-machine gun took aim, revealing a frenzied smile at the thought of the kill...
The sound of gunshots filled the air as empty shells rapidly hit the ground forming clouds of dust. Under this intense fire, no one would’ve been able to escape......
“Where is he!?” shouted the two gun toting boys, but... only shells littered the floor, with nobody in sight.....
The boy with the sub-machine gun looked around frantically. A sudden gurgling sound made him spin around only to have blood splatter his face. He stared in shock at the large gash on his friend’s throat, gushing an endless stream of blood. In a few seconds, he was relegated to the “dead” category by the system, and his limp body crumpled to the ground with malcontent evident in his eyes.
“Bastard! Where are you!” Snarled the boy with the sub-machine gun. He was angry but also afraid enough to shower the perimeter with bullets. But before he could finish his ammunition, he had already collapsed, still unaware of the reason. Just as he was about to protest that it was a system error, that he was not dead, he heard a voice...
“So fast.” An eye catching boy in a Mazinger’s suit, with porcupine-like hair and a dragon tattoo on his face, walked over and flipped the “carcass” onto his back.
“Stupid! You were attacked even before the guy whose throat was slit.”
Seeing that the carcass was staring at him with an unyielding expression, Ezart3 snorted, “The dagger moved so fast that you were killed before you could even feel it entering and leaving your guts.”
The carcass gasped and looked towards his abdomen. Indeed there was a wound there. Although it wasn’t big, blood was pouring out of it like water from a tap, reflecting the accuracy and lethality of the strike.
“Where did such a strong guy come from? From the looks of it, it can’t be Shain Baylian.”
Ezart revealed an intrigued smile. He slammed his fists together with a clamour of steel and an immense battle fervour as he strode in the direction of the person in question.
Dark Sun walked alone. Though he detected several people tracking him, he didn’t pay them any attention unless they were intent on attacking. His primary objective was to find Ezart. Whether it was just for observation or personally engaging in battle, Dark Sun just wanted to record a strong opponent’s battle for storage in his microchip. This was a way for him to become stronger and achieve the goal of protecting Gege.
However, Dark Sun did not manage to locate Ezart nor discover any other strong opponents even after searching for some time. He watched a few battles but none measured up to his standards.
In that case, if the others were to be eliminated, the remaining survivors would contain Ezart. Dark Sun made up his mind and reached towards his holster.
“He’s starting to attack...” As the notion floated into the consciousness of the crowd tracking him, they prepared to defend. Dark Sun took a step forward and vaulted off the wall into the air, letting out a volley of rapid shots. Several muffled cries and the thuds of collapsing bodies could be heard in response.
None of them were Ezart, nor were they skillful enough. Dark Sun holstered his gun, drew his dagger and skillfully sought out his opponents. Before they were able to catch a glimpse of him, they were killed with a single blow to the brain-stem and collapsed inexplicably to the ground while cursing the system for malfunctioning. And these were only his milder kills.
“He appeared so suddenly - I froze for a second before firing, but he evaded my shots easily. Then like a leopard on the hunt, he effortlessly left, searching for his next prey. It was then that I realised that my throat was spewing blood and the system was grounding my body, telling me that I had been killed by Dark Sun... Dark Sun - I’ll never forget that name,” said one of Dark Sun’s victims.
Still not him. Dark Sun’s blade was dripping with blood, yet he still could not locate Ezart or any other equally strong opponent. He could only continue wandering aimlessly.
Suddenly, the sounds of intense battle drifted to his ears, Dark Sun spent a millisecond analysing before deciding to head towards the sound. With his enhanced speed, he was able to quickly reach the location.
Dark Sun surveyed the surrounding area. The houses and streets had been left half destroyed, with gaping holes in sections of walls, broken street lights, uprooted trees and shattered windows visible in the area.
Upon seeing this, Dark Sun knew that he had finally found a strong opponent. He nimbly jumped onto the remaining wall of a building and stealthily made his way forward. After ten metres, the scenery changed from half to complete destruction. At the very end, only a large rocky formation was left, its original form now indeterminable. It was then that he finally saw the battleground.
Two people were engaged in battle: one was the well-built boy with spiked, orange hair - the ellusive Ezart. The other boy stood in stark contrast to Ezart. He was very lean, yet significantly taller than the gangly Dark Sun. He was approximately 180cm, and wore an ancient Chinese garb while wielding dual sai4.
Dark Sun stood on a derelict wall with his eyes fixed intently on the battle. He watched Ezart’s massive Mazinger gloves deal heavy and crushing blows that created craters on the ground. It was evident that he was to blame for roughly 80% of the surrounding destruction.
His opponent, though physically weak, appeared to be one of the high agility types. He was like a cunning and unpredictable snake, effortlessly dodging Ezart’s punches. However, it was impossible for someone as weak as him to severely injure the fully armoured Ezart with one strike. Hence, he was reduced to slicing a little here and there to slowly sap away his opponent’s strength.
This was extremely dangerous; if Ezart were to land a blow, the slender boy would probably be unable to get back onto his feet. But, that was if Ezart could land a blow. In truth, compared to the monstrous yet sluggish punches, the flying rock debris was more problematic, causing cuts and scratches time and again.
Although both had good fighting abilities, Ezart’s colossal strength was of no help to Dark Sun, whereas the unpredictability of the boy in the Chinese garb was beneficial for improving Dark Sun’s ability to dodge.
As the aces faced off, the agile boy suddenly turned his hips in a seemingly impossible angle to evade Ezart’s fists, and simultaneously closed the gap between himself and Ezart. The dual sai snuck its way through a gap in the armour, into Ezart's throat and emerged out the back of his head.
Surprisingly, the impaled Ezart was still stubbornly crushing the tiny waist of his opponent. The boy, unable to break free, forcefully tore his sai free. Torrents of blood spewed in all directions, causing the system to gradually ground Ezart, who was finally forced to release his opponent.
“You just don’t give up, do you? You‘ve already lost, yet you continue to strangle me” the boy in the Chinese garb remarked coldly.
Ezart slowly lifted his gaze towards him, battle fervour still visible in his eyes.
“If you want to fight, you’ll have to wait for the next practice session,” the boy wearing the Chinese garb turned around, speaking to the desolate area of destruction.
Daren frowned, he had thought that he wouldn’t be discovered; had he somehow carelessly revealed himself? Nevertheless, Daren had no intention of hiding. Engaging in battle had always been the only way to become stronger.
“Don’t think that I didn’t notice because I was battling Ezart. You were all throwing daggers at our backs!” The boy continued, with a contemptuous look.
Daren paused, realising that the boy wasn’t referring to him. After a split second's consideration, he decided to let the boy resolve all matters before engaging him in a satisfying heart thumping battle.
However, something strange happened; after the loud declaration by the boy, all the people lurking in the surrounding area were so frightened that they hastily fled regardless of whether they were the back stabbing person in question or not. Who knew who that was? It was simply best not to be the scapegoat...
Daren sensed that the players who had been lying in ambush were being pursued by a group, consisting of members whose fighting potential were greater than his earlier opponents. Within moments, the escaping players had all been dealt with.
Three of the pursuers returned to the boy in the Chinese garb. From the looks of respect on their faces, it was easy to tell that they were his subordinates or minions. Amongst them was a man wielding dual hand guns, an ice queen5 with long claws and an unreadable dwarfish guy.
“All taken care of?” the boy in the Chinese garb asked woodenly.
“We were unable to locate one,” the girl said as she looked at the him, her icy expression melting slightly.
“There’s still one left?” asked the boy, revealing a displeased expression.
His subordinates became slightly flustered, but they simply could not locate the last remaining person.
Suddenly, a sliver of doubt flashed across the boy’s eyes; he turned towards a nearby crumbling wall and scanned the shadows suspiciously. Was it simply an illusion? He was somewhat uncertain. Yet, he was unable to detect any human presence. Besides, if someone had been hiding there, there should have been some movement when he had scanned the area.
After staring for some time and being unable to discern any anomalies, the boy gradually turned around, dismissing it as paranoia. He had not heard of any specialists from the participating classes having the skills to elude him.
Daren silently observed the boy. Just as he turned away, Daren leapt out, felling the man with the dual hand guns with a single strike. He simultaneously kicked the ice queen aside and after regaining his balance, punched the dwarfish man away.
Although the boy in the Chinese garb was taken by surprise, it was obvious that he had received specialised martial arts training and had to be an expert to have defeated Ezart. The dual sai reflexively parried a blow and the air resounded with the crisp clash of metal. Sai and dagger met repeatedly at speeds that surpassed both the wielders’ expectations.
Daren was astonished. Although this was not his greatest speed, he should have already exceeded the range of human comprehension and reflex. To think that there was someone who could keep up with his attacks.
The boy in question, however, was having overwhelming amounts of trouble. At first glance, he seemed to have the upper hand, but upon further analysis, it was apparent that the usage of his dual sai required great coordination and thought. Yet, the speed of the incoming blows were not giving him the opportunity to think. He was relying completely on his body’s reflexes for every attack and parry. How long could he sustain this? His expression was grim.
This person was strong, very strong. He had already reached his limit, but it seemed as if his opponent still had further room to manoeuvre...... The boy in the Chinese clothes easily understood these facts.
“Who are you?” He finally could not resist asking. The result of his momentary distraction was a long gash to his forearm.
In the past, Dark Sun would never be distracted during a battle with such a pointless thing as giving his name to an opponent. But he was no longer just an emotionless fighting machine. He was also Daren Solaris, and Daren Solaris felt that since the other party had asked, and he had the resources to answer, there could be no harm in doing so. In addition, gege had allowed him to make decisions that pandered more to his emotions, therefore Daren answered.
“Your name?” He was even slightly curious about his opponent’s name.
Growled the boy through clenched teeth. The movements of his arms had slowed because of his wound, further compromising his situation. Damn it! How can he execute such complex attacks with such an ordinary dagger?
Although Daren knew that once he increased his speed, Shain would immediately be defeated, he was in no hurry to do so. Shain Baylian’s snake-like contortions were well worth referencing. Daren was happy to observe, even reducing his speed so that the battle would not conclude too quickly.
He decreased his speed? Although it was strange, Shain did not put too much thought into it and instead increased the rate of his attacks. His body struck and stilled like a rattle snake in battle. Unless they were a powerful cyborg, most people would not have been able to withstand his attacks.
This was why Ezart repeatedly lost to Shain and treated him as his greatest rival. Ezart’s naturally gifted monstrous strength coupled with his specialised training made him almost universally undefeatable. This was also one of the reasons he was feared in the academy. Despite all that, whenever he battled Shain Baylian, another freak with snake-like dexterity, he was continuously defeated.
Daren was savouring the moment like precious rain in a drought. Although there had been various battle machines in the laboratory, they had all been modeled after average people. There had never been an opponent with such unique abilities to fight against. Of course, Dark Sun, whose primary objective was to become stronger, studiously recorded the battle data.
But unbeknownst to Dark Sun, while he was recording others, he was also revealing his battle strategies. A massive screen for public viewing in front of an empty plaza had been installed outside the YeLan Academy Battledome. It had begun as a multitude of small screens displaying individual battles.
As the participants began to die off, the divisions of the screen decreased, with each display gradually increasing in size. Only at this point did it become a spectacle to behold. Every student on the outside avidly watched every battle. Some watched purely for entertainment, others to watch and learn, and of course, a sizable portion was there to support their favourite idols.
At that moment, there was only one battle on screen. Although two of Shain Baylian’s subordinates had yet to die, they did not dare to act rashly. They were both aware that when Shain was engaged in battle, he detested being interrupted by others. Therefore, the screen was focused solely on the two boys fighting.
Everyone was dumbstruck, eyes riveted on the battle on-screen. This was a rare sight. In the past, this audience would be gossiping, analysing battles, cheering for their idols and being as noisy as a market place. But at that moment, a blanket of silence had descended over the crowd.
“Has Shain Baylian finally met his match? The guy, who can’t be defeated, has met his match?” someone mumbled after a prolonged silence.
“Is he at a disadvantage?” another muttered with an unbelieving expression.
“Who the hell is Dark Sun? He’s quick, his movements are even faster than Shain Baylian... how can he be so fast?”
When faced with that question, the crowd looked at each other, breaking out in a chorus of questions: “Is he from your class?” “Or is he someone from outside the academy who applied to participate in this battle?” “Does anyone know Dark Sun?”
Even though the scene was like the explosion of a wok7 that had been left to boil for too long, Ezart was unaffected by the ruckus. He already knew that Dark Sun was strong, and had been trailing him when he unexpectedly met Shain Baylian; the two of them aggravated each other as per normal, and Ezart lost as per normal...
But he was not disappointed in the slightest, because another strong opponent had emerged from the Academy, one who was stronger than Shain Baylian! That’s right! Ezart saw right from the start, that this Dark Sun’s ability was greater than Shain’s...... No, his ability greatly exceeded Shain’s!
“Shain Baylian will definitely lose.”
Ezart’s words resounded in the noisy plaza and captured everyone’s attention, a ripple of silence fanned out from Ezart.
Then, as if to verify Ezart’s words, Dark Sun launched his attacks fiercely. Shain, who had long been worn out, sustained more injuries to his arms. A few more clashes sent his dual sai flying, which then lodged all the way to their hilts in the ground and a derelict wall respectively.
Shain knew that his defeat was imminent. He was neither surprised, nor did he continue to struggle, but instead revealed a sinister smile, saying “Dark Sun, I will remember you.”
The dagger pierced Shain just below his smile, causing vibrant blood to blossom down his throat.
“Yes, Shain Baylian, I will remember you too.” Dark Sun said matter-of-factly; he would definitely create a file in his microchip for Shain Baylian and his martial art techniques.
Shain Baylian revealed a smile that seemed oddly content as he slowly collapsed...
******************** Chapter 4 END ********************
1Antonias: Chinese name 阿纳伊, pronounced Ana Yi.
2Mazinger: An old mecha manga and anime series. The manga suit most likely refers to robot-like armor.
3Ezart: Izatte's name has been changed to Ezart, according to Yu Wo, this is his official English name.
4Sai: the plural of sai... is sai. For info on the weapon itself check wiki.
6Ice queen: This refers to a girl with an icy expression, rather than an ice wielder
6Shain Baylian: Chinese name 白莲星, pronounced Báilián Xīng.
7Wok: is a round-bottomed cooking vessel originating in China.