Over time, William came up with unofficial rankings for students in the duel arena. Everyone near the top was fifteen years old, or more, with two exceptions. In first place was Lila. She had become terrifyingly good, and never lost. She seemed to really enjoy dueling, as well. The other exception in the age category, to his own surprise, was William. Though he always lost against Lila, and Marius, who placed second, William could fairly confidently rank himself third.
William honestly couldn’t say that he’d expected to be so good at dueling. However, he had a great feeling for timing, and could tell what spells were going to be cast, and where they would be aimed. He was also surprisingly fit. Sure, he’d worked at it, but he’d never been even the slightest bit good at physical activity in his previous life. Some of it was just lack of motivation, but William was also pretty sure he inherited good genes in this life, not that anybody knew about genes.
William lost to Lila for several reasons. First, she could chant whatever she wanted, so he couldn’t guess ahead of time what her spell would be. She was also good at pretending to aim spells at different locations, but actually aim for where he was going to dodge. She was powerful enough that she could miss on purpose with a fireball and still damage him. William would probably never beat her, but he did learn a lot whenever they dueled, so he kept trying.
Marius was good all around, and his strategy was excellent. He also was pretty good with a staff… at least relative to everyone else. Thus, he managed to keep William from hitting him before he could get off a spell that William couldn’t dodge. He even managed to keep his concentration up even when William did manage to hit him. Well, he was still older than William, so he had that advantage.
William didn’t only lose to those two, but only rarely was defeated by anyone else. The exception to that was the person in fourth place. Geoff Ruxburg. The same one that had been bullying Lila. He hadn’t, and frankly couldn’t do that anymore. He’d kept his actions under control, but he was still an arrogant jerk. William wanted to say that he was almost as terrible wizard as he was a person, but that wasn’t true. He wasn’t a good wizard though. How, then, did he beat William about half the time? Money. No, he didn’t cheat or bribe. He might have if he thought he wouldn’t get caught, but he hadn’t. Instead, he won through virtue of items. He had a very expensive staff, topped with a ruby suited to amplify his favorite fire spells. His robes were enchanted to increase his defenses. He even had rings that helped him control mana more efficiently. Even with that, William still beat him more often than not. Technically. William was ahead by one duel, right now.
On the whole, the quality of duels had increased. They had to, with Lila and Marius participating. Even if they were arrogant or stubborn people, there wasn’t anyone at the Main Instruction Facility who was actually stupid. Thus, people learned to move and dodge, at least to some degree.
Though William’s participation was frowned upon based on the fact that he didn’t use magic, he spread the idea that it was to help people gain experience fighting against non-wizards, such as knights or monsters. Though fights against actual monsters would be very good for learning, it was very dangerous. Monsters didn’t stay in nice areas of weak and strong, and nobody could know what to expect if they went into the wildernesses.
Fortunately for normal citizens, monsters wouldn’t come near civilization often, and thus they were relatively safe. This was due to the efforts of patrolling knights, and a very small number of combat wizards. Monsters were also less aggressive when there wasn’t a demon king, and there wouldn’t be another one for more than a century. The minimum time was one hundred and forty four (one “gross”) years after the death of the previous one. Twelve times twelve. It seemed that there were many good reasons to have a base twelve number system, but William still occasionally found himself thinking in base ten still. Either way, the last one had died five years before William was born, so it would be a long time. William was glad that his lifetime would be peaceful, at least relatively. Demons weren’t the only threat in the world.
To further encourage the growth of students in the duels, a tournament was organized. William was excited, not only because he could have an official ranking, but also because of the prizes. There was a variety of enchanted equipment available as prizes, and those at the top would have the chance to pick the item they liked best. That is, the person in first place would get to choose one item first, then the person in second, continuing until the person in eighth place. There were more prizes available than there were people who would receive prizes, so even eight place would have some choice. Anything unchosen would be available in a future tournament, apparently.
The items had fairly high market prices, but as they were made in the academy, it wasn’t too expensive for them. Though enchanted items were very expensive, it wasn’t actually a guaranteed that anyone would need or purchase them. They often were around for a long time before being sold, since they were expensive enough that even nobles wouldn’t usually buy them unless they had some use.
Among other things, there was a very nice wizard’s robe, with defensive enchantments. William liked how it looked. Of course, there was also a very nice staff. It wasn’t as nice as the cursed, crystal staff, but it had durability enhancements in addition to the diamond embedded in it that would slightly amplify all magic. There were a few other items that interested William, but not as much as those two. Thus, he had to aim to do better than just third place to be sure of getting one of them. William thought that maybe with a bit more willpower, he could get second or even first place.
That is, until Lila found out about it. Lila was still using a staff that, quite frankly, did almost nothing for her magic. The talk of prizes made Lila grin madly in a way that William found rather terrifying. Marius looked like he’d be interested in getting something too, but as a noble he already had some things. He wasn’t extremely fired up. Thus, William decided to aim for second place. If he was doing well enough in the tournament, he’d probably just surrender if he came up against Lila, just so that he could avoid the chance that he ended up injured enough to not participate in the next round.
William was glad the tournament wasn’t single elimination. Instead, each participant would fight in a number of matches against random opponents, and then those well ranked would fight matches against each other as well. This meant that someone who deserved second place wouldn’t get knocked out of the tournament in the first round, just because they fought the person who was the very best. Likewise, an average person couldn’t get second place by ending up against only easy opponents. Luck was significantly reduced as a factor.