2. A World Without Friends

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"Now that all the rabble is gone, it's time to sort the best of the best," the headmaster suddenly spoke once the last name had been called. Autumn perked up. He didn't remember this part from his father's rundown.

Suddenly, the auditorium began to shake, and a round slice in the middle ascended to form a small battle dome. A bridge opened between the stage and the dome. The room was completely hushed. In the silence, the headmaster's dark footsteps filled the auditorium with ominous echoes as he headed for the dome. He placed his hand on the surface. Autumn clenched his fists. What was he doing? The man must have been losing his mind this year because it was his son's turn! Damn him...

"This is a battle dome!" The headmaster shouted, booming voice no longer needing a microphone. "It has the strength of a thousand magicians! Here, you will show us the extent of your powers."

There was a long pause as the students gazed at the globe that stared down at them, sinking in its shadow. Was the man serious? He said nothing as he stood high on that structure, waiting for something that they were unsure if they could deliver. Autumn furrowed his brows. Then, a teen in front of him turned around. He had dark, beady blue eyes, ones that could have easily been given to a snake. Looking into those eyes, he felt a name echo in the back of his mind, but it disappeared soon after. The teen furrowed his brows at him.

"Why don't you go? You are the hero..." He sneered, voice sharp and threatening. Those eyes... It was like the glare was a knife at his neck. Autumn stayed quiet, just staring at the man.

"Alima Lync!" The punishment director called. A kid towards the front twitched. He must have been the sacrifice.

The kid stood up slowly and made his way to the stage. He was trembling, shaking, as they led him to the dome, hands tucked close to his sides and head down. When he was finally inside, all eyes were glued to him. The door to the dome slammed shut.

"Based on your power level, we will judge whether you are an assaulter or a protector. Of course, I have every faith that none of you will be marked as protectors, but you still must demonstrate your abilities," the headmaster explained. "Now, Lync, don't hold back. Show us what you can do!"

The kid nodded and took a deep breath. Putting his hands together, he summoned an aura of ice that began to swirl around him. Then, he raised his hands up and released it with a great explosion. The entire dome fogged as soon as the ice made contact, and the power consumed the floor in snow. The kid looked up, panting.

"How disappointing. Protector," the headmaster grumbled.

Autumn raised his brow. That was lame. It was hardly even a second class spell; At that thought, however, the man with the beady eyes turned around again. He gave a crooked smile. Autumn could swear he had fangs.

"Scared to go? Fine, I'll go and prove how inferior the so-called hero is," he hissed. With that, he stood up, drawing all eyes on himself and away from the kid. "My name is Eon Krad. I volunteer to go next."

The Mistress of Punishment looked at her clipboard and ran her finger along the pages on top. She stopped and looked back up to give a short nod. Eon glanced back at the hero with flame-lit eyes before turning back to the stage. Autumn watched as he climbed the staircase, head held high and chest puffed. Maybe he was just a jerk, but something about his presence felt dark and... Familiar.

When the man took his place inside the dome and the door shut, he stared dead at Autumn, their eyes locking with electric hisses. He held out his hand, the motion fluid like the rise of a wave, and closed his eyes. From the tip of his finger, he unleashed a thin red beam that kissed the top of the dome. There was a pause, when Eon suddenly opened his eyes and clutched his fist with a grunt, the aftermath of the beam exploding against the dome. It cracked. Each and everyone inside the auditorium erupted into cheers of amazement and awe. Except for Autumn. He sat in silence, watching his father's eyes widen in shock and admiration. He gritted his teeth.

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