A sixteen-year-old boy with short red hair, and green eyes grit his teeth as he ran after a horned rabbit with all of his might.
'No matter what happens, I must catch this rabbit!' the young boy vowed in his heart as he pushed himself to the limit.
Several children, as well as adults, were cheering for him from the sidelines, giving him encouragement. They had seen him challenge this trial over and over for the past few years, and all of them sincerely hoped that the boy would be able to pass it this time around.
As the stinging pain in his chest intensified, the young boy's breathing became erratic. Even so, he ignored the pain and ran as if his life depended on it.
Watching him from a distance was an old woman sitting on top of a white hippopotamus. Although she had a calm expression on her face, deep inside she was worried about her adopted grandson's condition.
"You're mine!" the boy roared as he reached out his hand to grab the rabbit who was now within reach. He had painstakingly closed the gap at the last second, using everything he had in order for his capture to succeed.
Just as his hands were about to touch the rabbit's fur, he felt his world spin for a brief moment before everything went dark.
The boy fell to the ground face-first and all his movements stopped completely.
A few seconds later, the old woman appeared beside the fallen boy and gently rolled his body over so that he could lie on his back.
The boy had several bruises on his head and all of them were bleeding. His lower lip had also been punctured and blood flowed ceaselessly.
"Lux," the old woman felt her heart ache at seeing her adopted grandson's current state. "Silly boy, why must you go this far?"
The old lady took out a small bottle from her storage bag and sprinkled half of its contents over the boy's head and facial injuries. It was a high-quality healing potion that she always carried around in case of emergency.
A few seconds later, the wounds had started to close and heal at a rapid pace.
The old lady then sprinkled the remaining half of the healing potion on the other injuries located on the boy's arms, legs, and chest.
After making sure that she had dealt with all of her grandson's injuries, she picked him up and sighed in relief.
It was at that moment a middle-aged man walked toward the old woman and looked at the boy in her arms.
"Vera, I'm sorry but I can't allow Lux to enter Elysium," the middle-aged man said. "Sending him there is akin to sending him to his death. He is a hardworking and kind boy, but Wildgarde will forever be his home."
Vera sighed and nodded her head. "I understand, Gerald. Thank you for accepting Lux's request to take the trial."
Vera gave Gerald a brief bow before walking away while carrying her grandson.
The residents of Wildgarde looked at the red-haired boy on Sophie's arms and sighed.
"He failed again this year."
"Poor Lux. He has been training everyday, but his weak constitution won't allow him to succeed."
"Such a shame, but maybe this is for the best. Even if he can't enter Elysium, he is still a member of our stronghold."
"That's right. So what if he has a weak body? I know people stronger than him that have died inside Elysium. No matter how strong you are, it won't matter if you're dead!"
When Lux opened his eyes, he found himself lying in a familiar room.
It was the room where he had stayed up for most of his life and this discovery made him feel helpless.
'I failed again,' Lux thought as he covered his face with his left hand. Not long after, the sound of the boy's sobbing spread throughout the room.
'Why was I born a failure?'
'Why was I born useless?'
'The others were able to enter Elysium when they were fourteen. I'm sixteen now and I'm still here! Just what is my purpose in life? I failed Grandma again. I'm too embarrassed to face her now…'
Lux's tears flowed without stopping as the shame, embarrassment, and helplessness in his heart burst forth like a raging river.
He had done everything within his power to make his grandma proud, but due to the unknown disease that plagued his body, he would often lose consciousness even if he was just standing still.
Because of this, he was unable to train and study properly.
Usually, in the stronghold when kids turned twelve, they would officially begin their training regimen in order to enter Elysium.
The Elysium Fields, or Elysium for short, was the world's primary source of resources. Only those that had met the necessary requirements were allowed to enter this special place and help their stronghold expand in that strange, yet beautiful world that was so different from the world that they resided in.
The veteran warriors of the Wildgarde Stronghold would then train these young children in order to prepare them for their exploration of this new world.
When Lux turned twelve, he too trained alongside his friends. He thought that he would be able to join them on their adventures in Elysium, but reality gave him a hard slap to the face.
He suffered several injuries and injured many people due to his tendency to faint during training.
When he was fourteen he fainted while swinging his sword and sent the weapon flying. Thankfully, he didn't hit anyone, but it had made others refrain from sparring against him.
Stamina training—AKA long distance running—was also a problem. Sometimes in the middle of running Lux would faint, forcing his friends to carry him until they returned to the stronghold.
At first, they were able to tolerate it, but after it happened several times they politely told him that running long distances was something he shouldn't attempt without supervision.
The last incident he had was during bow practice. He fainted and accidentally released the arrow, hitting the instructor's butt in the process. Because of this, he was banned from participating in archery training again.
Although he begged and pleaded with his instructors, all of them shook their heads and politely told him to just train under his Grandma's supervision.
Vera was more than happy to train her grandson, but because of Lux's unstable condition, there were times when her grandson almost lost his life in the middle of training.
In the end, Vera told Lux that being a warrior was not suitable for him.
But Lux didn't want to hear this truth. Just like everyone else, Lux also wanted to go to Elysium. He wanted to make his grandma proud.
Lux wanted to become a High-Ranker and show his grandma that she hadn't wasted her time raising him from infanthood. He didn't want to be labeled as a failure or a useless person.
She was the only family Lux had in the world, and he wanted to show her that he was not useless. So to prove himself, he would train in secret.
Since then, it had become a normal occurrence in the stronghold to see kids dragging Lux's unconscious body back to his house every day.
After half an hour, Lux finally regained his composure. He wiped the remaining tears from his eyes and stared out the window of his room.
"Maybe I'm not really meant to enter Elysium," Lux said softly. This time, he really felt like giving up.
Elysium was a place where one can acquire many amazing things. Anyone who entered this world could gain riches, fame, glory, as well as realize their wildest dreams.
This was a strange world that had appeared many years ago, right after the Hundred-Year War that had razed the world of Solais to the brink of collapse.
It was a new frontier that had the key to saving their world.
This was why many people young and old wanted to enter and explore this unknown world. Lux was one of them. And yet, he was once again denied the opportunity due to his weak body that was unable to keep up with the desire in his heart.
Just as he was trying to convince himself into giving up his dream, a hearty chuckle spread throughout his surroundings.
"You've struggled all this time, and now you're giving up?" a teasing voice said by his ear.
Lux almost jumped off his bed from fright due to the unexpected voice that came out of nowhere.
He then hurriedly looked around his room to try and find where the voice was coming from.
"Just where are you looking?" the teasing voice asked. "I'm right here outside your window."
Lux walked towards the window and came face to face with a little boy with short, dark-blue hair and gray eyes, who seemed to be around ten years old, floating in the air in front of him.
"Who are you?" Lux asked as he stared at the little boy he'd never seen before in the Wildgarde Stronghold.
"My name is Eriol," Eriol said with a friendly smile that made Lux feel as if he had found a long lost friend.
"I am the God of Games and I came here to help my best friend, Macuilxochitl, finish the task he started."