Deia Parisa has been waiting at the reception area of the inn since dawn. She doesn't want Kresi to disappear suddenly. Good things are predictable. Bad things happen without any notice.
The receptionist arrives and takes her seat. Most of the candidates aren't awake yet. The inn owner is preparing breakfast. The scent of tea and toast is lingering in the air.
"Do you know where Kresi Dunebard is staying?" Deia can't resist asking.
"That candidate?" The receptionist remembers the name because Kresi is the last person to arrive yesterday. That girl is quite unforgettable because of her golden eyes. "She is staying on the first floor. Her room number is 7A3."
"Thank you!" Deia goes off to the first floor. There are loud noises coming from this room. She recognizes Kresi's voice. She knocks on the room. After a moment, Kresi opens the door. Her dark hair is tousled. Strings of her robe are loosened. On the bed, Deia can see a sullen Kyo sitting with rumpled long hair. The spirit beast is yelling and rolling from left to right.
"Did I intrude?" Deia doesn't think of this wrong. After last night, she understands that Kyo is a mentally unstable boy. This boy is mentally pure and lacks the intelligence to understand the world. The spirit beast has some issues though. "I have been waiting for you."
Kresi gives her a nod. "Come in."
Mogrok stops rolling. He glares at Deia. She disregards him and sits on the chair. Kresi sits beside Kyo. Both of them look like they want to sleep more. Deia clears her throat. "Are you ready for today? The competition will start after two hours."
"We only have two hours?" Kresi holds her head. "Kyo isn't even ready yet. Who can untangle his mess? It will take hours. I should just cut them."
"Sister, I will not cut my hair." Kyo shifts away from her and grasps his hair protectively.
"You will look more handsome if you cut your hair," Kresi argues. "It will save time."
"No." He shifts further away until his back hits the wall.
"Then, I will cut my hair." Kresi is irritated. She looks at Deia. "Do you know how to use a knife?"
"Sister, please don't do this..."
"Master, please don't do this..."
"I know how to use a scissor." Deia's face is blank. "But, I am not sure if I can do a good job on your hair. I agree with them though."
"Only one of us can keep long hair." Her hair looks similar to a bird's nest. "I have to comb his hair. Then, I have to comb mine. It takes too much time. Cut my hair now."
"Sister, I will comb my hair by myself." Kyo rushes to her side. "Don't do it to yourself. If you cut your hair, I will feel sad."
"Why?" She glowers at him. "It is just hair. They will grow again."
"They will grow again?" Kyo asks with a bewildered expression. He looks at Mogrok. "Then, why does not his hair grow?"
"That..." Kresi is defeated. "He is born without any hair."
"That is correct." Mogrok seems proud. "No hair. No combing."
Deia giggles after seeing them. The trio narrows their eyes on her.
"I am sorry... it is just.... too funny..."
"How about this?" Kresi attempts to make his hair smooth with her hands. "Both of us will cut hair together. Then, we will our hair grow again. Together."
"They will really grow again?" Kyo's eyes become round.
"If they don't, we will both have short hairs."
"Okay..." Kyo finally gives in. Kresi doesn't delay. She brings out a knife from her luggage and starts the work on Kyo's hair. She gives him a modern look from her past world. In fifteen minutes, Kyo's hair is shortened. Deia gulps after seeing his face. She didn't know that someone's looks can change so much after a haircut.
"Done!" Kresi shouts with satisfaction. "I have been waiting to do this for a long time. Kyo, you are the most handsome boy in the three realms."
"Do you like me more now, Sister?" Kyo smiles broadly.
"I do." Kresi rubs his cheeks. "You are so cute, Kyo. If you become cuter, I don't know what to do."
"Kresi, your hands have magic. You are truly an extraordinary person." Deia bends down on her knees in front of the bed. "Please give me a haircut."
"You are already pretty." Kresi stands in front of the mirror. "It's now my time to rise and shine."
In ten minutes, Kresi's hair is shortened to her shoulder length. Her bangs cover her forehead. It's a clean and cute look.
"Sister, you look pretty."
"Master is pretty."
"Kresi, I want the same haircut." Deia isn't going to let go at any cost. "Please! Please! Please!"
"This haircut won't look good on you." Kresi gives in. "I will give you a better one. My grandparents owned a salon. She taught me how to cut hair."
"Really?" Deia sits with her back to Kresi. "My maids cut my hair."
"Don't move now." Kresi works fast. "There, it's done."
Deia looks into the mirror. Her hair is shorter than Kresi's. Back of her pale neck is exposed. Her new hair makes her look quirky and beautiful at the same time. In Deled, women are not supposed to keep such short hair. But, Deia can't complain now. She is happy anyway. "I didn't know that I could look better."
"Seer, you don't look half bad now," Mogrok remarks. Kyo ignores Deia and gazes at his sister. Her sister's neck isn't exposed like the seer girl. He also wants to see it. He pulls up Kresi's hair to get a view of the back of her neck.
"What are you doing?" Kresi doesn't think of this. Kyo's actions have always been abrupt like this.
"Sister's neck is pretty." His beautiful face is so close that she can feel his hot breath on the back of her neck. She isn't least affected in any way. She rolls her eyes. "When you grow up, you will regret saying these things to me."
"You think?" Kyo's voice turns deeper. His fingers become cold as ice. Kresi turns head around and stares at him. She can't speak. Kyo isn't smiling. His dark eyes aren't full of simplicity and naivety. They are intense and enigmatic. His face is indifferent and obstinate. She has never seen him like that. In the next instant, Kyo's eyes become pure again.
Deia and Mogrok are arguing about something and hasn't noticed anything strange.
"Who are you?" Kresi asks in a levelled voice.
"I am Kyo, Sister." Kyo's voice becomes the same. "What happened to you, Sister?"
"Ah, nothing." She looks away. Did she imagine it? She dismisses her thoughts. "Kyo, dress up."
After an hour, they go to the competition grounds. It's already full. All the candidates are there. Everyone's eyes turn to Kyo again. This time, Kyo and Kresi don't react much. Fifteen candidates out of seventeen candidates passed the first round. The second round of the competition is not easy. One has to conquer a spirit. In the second round, only low tier rank 1 spirits used in the competition.
The stage has changed into an arena with safety runes inscribed in the corners. It keeps the spirit inside the arena. The candidate has to defeat the spirit within thirty minutes. Deia meets her sister who is waiting for her turn. Her sister looks a bit nervous. She looks at Mogrok and misses her spirit beast. She has left her spirit beast in her room. A wahr cannot use his spirit beast in this round anyway. The spirit has to be defeated or tamed using magic only.
"You will do good, Ami," Deia tells her softly. "You have trained for so long."
"I don't know." Amelia bites her nails. She is so nervous that she doesn't notice Deia's hair. "Nobody can last more than five minutes in the arena with those wild spirits."
It is true that most candidates fail in the second round. The wild spirits are caught from the forest. Though their level is low, they are quite aggressive.
Kresi looks around. She sees Aizel waving at her. She gives a nod to Deia and leaves her alone with Amelia. Teacher Hohan looks grouchy when his eyes meet hers. Teacher Shyl is beaming like always.
"Kresi, your hair..." Aizel turns to Kyo. "You two look...." Is not it forbidden for them to look more appealing?
"It suits me, right?" Kresi flicks her hair with her finger. Aizel's view is blocked again. It's Kyo standing in front of Kresi. Aizel takes a deep breath and declares, "Kresi, your turn is first."
"What?" Kresi asks in a low voice. "Why I am the first? I barely passed the first round."
"I don't know." Aizel smiles at her weakly. "Kyo's turn is second. He got the highest score in the first round. His turn should be first. My turn is twelfth."
"Argh!" Kresi glances at Kyo. "Kyo, you only have to defeat the spirit. Use the spells that are taught in the class. Don't scare the public, okay?"
Teacher Shyl and Teacher Hohan also agree quietly. Don't have mood swings, please! The people of Prath will kick them out of the competition if they find out who is causing this trouble.
"Candidates, get ready." The same official is back on the arena. "The second round of the competition will commence in five minutes. Kresi Dunebard, I repeat, Kresi Dunebard, please come to the arena."
It's her call.
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