|[NMR] Reunite with Morello. Our enemies will fall!||8||40.00%|
|[NMR] Morello is out of control. He must be overthrown!||3||15.00%|
|[NMR] We will wait until the IsC and the AfA are done killing each other before we act.||3||15.00%|
|[IsC] Parrotopia's walls will hold. Launch a counter assault on the AfA!||6||30.00%|
|[IsC] Something wicked is stirring in the north. Investigate it!||7||35.00%|
|[IsC] The AfA is too strong! Fall back to the palace!||7||35.00%|
|[The Knights Who Drink Tea] Drink Tea! (Tea! Tea! Tea!) - Back to neutrality.||7||35.00%|
|[AfA] March our new allied armies to the Brotherhood lands and crush them!||3||15.00%|
|[AfA] Send our new found allies to reinforce the assault on Parrotopia!||8||40.00%|
|[AfA] Zileas senses Morello's return. Investigate it! Also pillage things on the way.||5||25.00%|
|Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 20. You may not vote on this poll|
Alice - No Affiliation - Prairies of Demacia
The sway of the light wind swept wild grain brushed across her arms she enjoyed her prance through the natural field surrounding her homestead. The breeze caressed her smooth round face and rolled her scarlet locks ever so gently behind her. She was hardly taller than the wheat that had not even finished its growth as she stood some odd 5 feet in height. Though appearing joyful and at play as any girl may be on such a wondrous day her mind was a tumultuous thunderstorm of contemplation and brooding.
Soon, she was coming of age to marry. Fate had graced her with delicate and beautiful features that would fetch a tremendous dowry to any that could pay the price her parents had schemed over as she grew to such beauty. Though, she had fantasized about falling in love and having her own home out in a similar prairie she knew that love was not in her future. Neigh, a suitor who could buy her, would own her. At this thought, she stopped her play. For the first time the thought of running away lingered longer than the five seconds it usually stayed at the front of her mind. Indeed, such was the strength in feeling of necessity that no matter the effort she could not shake it. A distant call from her cabin house now reached her ears.
"Alice, your father will be home soon. Come help me make lunch!" her mother's easily recognizable voice beckoned her return and yet her feet were planted as the very wheat surrounding her. Before she knew what was happening her feet were carrying her away. Far from her farm house. Farther out into the country side than she was allowed, out of sight of her home, even out of sight of the great capitol of Demacia.
A life of poverty and struggle, she decided, would be better lived than one forever attached to a man who bought her body.
Alice - No Affiliation - The Void
Alice's eyes were useless. The scape of the earth without illumination from the sun had left her surroundings an all consuming nether of darkness. She could not see her own hand 1 inch from her face let alone a path to continue walking. Worse yet, it was cold. The air around her was a stagnant strength draining nexus. Her hope dwindled after hours of trudging on through the darkness. Finally collapsing she curled into a ball and shivered for warmth. It would not come.
Her slumber was troubled. Her fits of discomfort swirled with nightmares of being taken in the dark had ravaged hope for any relief in dreams. Shouts and pulses in the air caused her to stir. Though fear dominated her mind her body was enthralled with curiosity. She stood and saw surges of purple light not far off in the distance. The light was entrancing. For so long she had been sunk into darkness that unconsciously her feet moved her closer.
As she neared, she could make out two figures. both men seeming to float above the ground. Each clad in purple, yet each also garbed completely differently. The first was a thin man wrapped in fine cloths with a single dagger held about his waist firmly by a wide cloth belt, his eyes shone a pale blue with lack of a pupil. The second mans was of muscular stature his waist boasting 20 abs. His face was hidden beneath a mask from which many tubes exited and encircled him. Upon his right arm a blade of purple shimmered to match that of the spells the to cast at each other.
The battle was fierce and it seemed that neither had advantage over the other. By chance, muscular warrior opened a portal and teleported mere inches away from Alice, his sudden emergence startling her causing her to scream. The warrior looked down upon her and uttered words that she could not understand for her fear clouded all thought. Looking over to the other she heard a yell in a gutteral tongue and caught glimpse of a trail of purple energy trailing from his face in... her direction. Mere moments before the torrent of energy reached her a ball of similar color emitted from the muscular warriors blade met the stream. Her vision skewed as the entire world seemed to tilt momentarily. Where the spells had made contact stood now a hole seemingly open to nothingness.
Moments later she began to feel a force around her. She slowly shifted toward the hole, sliding along the ground. She desperately grasped at the grasses beneath her trying to stop her movement but to no avail as the earth gave way under the pull of the nothingness. The warrior extended his hand to grasp hers, but was to late. As she passed through the hole it closed and encompassed her in darkness.
Her travel ended in an abrupt descent into a solid floor. She could see nothing once again enshrouded in darkness. Suddenly, voices whispered in her head, whispers that demanded her attention. She clasped her hands against her ears in vain and screamed and shouted for the help and for someone to stop the whispers.
Xyphuminaties Msyk and Xandar, several decades back. Part I
“No Msyk, you’re not getting it at all. You need to focus on both spheres at once, not alternate your concentration between them.”
A young child was standing perfectly straight, as high as his seven year old body would allow. Both of his arms were stretched out as far as possible, palms facing the ceiling. Two spheres, one of light in his right hand and one of shadows in the other, were floating alternatively, sometimes almost dissipating themselves when they stayed in hand for too long. The young child, known under the name of Msyk, was tasked to conjure both spheres at once, out of pure magic, and keep them floating a foot above his hands. This multi-tasking exercise was very taxing on the young boy, but his father had left him no choice.
“It’s... too hard...” let out an exhausted Msyk. Abundant sweat was falling from his forehead. In one last attempt to make both of the spheres float, Msyk channeled the remaining mental energy that he had, but it was too little, too late. As both spheres fell away, dispersing themselves into the ether of the air, the young boy fell onto the ground, trying to catch his breath. “I can’t... do this... any...more...”
“You’ll have to do it anyways. You’re a Twill. You have the power of balance in your blood, but you must master it more quickly. Unleashing the power of the sun and the moon is the first step to mastering this power, to comprehend the act of light and darkness that operates in our world, and to adjust it when necessary.” said the man who was supervising Msyk’s progress.
Arthur Twill was a rather strict man and an even stricter father to his son. He wasn’t in his youth anymore, but still had plenty of years ahead of him. He was a tall, slim man, with short and clean cut white and black hair. His grey eyes were always gazing deep into people’s souls, as if he was reading their intentions. Nothing seemed to elude him. His magical prowess was known to everyone of the Xyphuminati and even respected in the outside world, despite what little news actually came out of their small continent. And he was part of the Council of Seven.
The Council was part of Xypherous’ wisest and most trusted advisors concerning the land of Runeterra and its balance. The Xyphuminaties served one purpose in this world: making sure that everything was kept in balance. Light versus darkness, technology versus magic, democracy to monarchy, and many more aspects. They oversaw as much as they could, but preferred to keep humanity working on their own, and intervening only when the balance was getting compromised. And they made sure to do this as subtly as possible. Their acts shouldn’t be known to the rest of the world’s population.
“Balance in stealth” was the way of the Xyphuminaties. They regularly sent agents everywhere across the world, either provoking the act of balance or preventing any rupture in the world’s equilibrium, when everything was still fine. From their point of view, if one aspect of the world would dominate or even eradicate the other, it was only a matter of time until another would follow, creating a domino effect that would end up destroying the world as it was known.
Arthur was one of the men in charge of observing the balance. As things were relatively calm, he focused on training his son. He had great pride in him, and saw a deep potential in his young body and mind. In Arthur’s ideal world scenario, once he retired, Msyk would take his place as a member of the council. But first, he had to be properly educated and strengthened, and the first step was to improve his mental capacities, as well as teaching him the conflicting forces of light and darkness. “Take a five minute break. You’ll restart your training as soon as possible. The academy is in two years for you, and the teachers there will not be as forgiving as I am.”
Msyk was slowly catching his breath. The energy of youth was still overflowing in him, but those exercises were still too much of a strain on his mind. Msyk then noticed his mother walking in with his new little brother in her arms. He had heard that Xandar didn’t have any parents, so he was taken by the Twill family to be raised. “Is Xandar going to follow the same training as I am?”
“Yes and no.” replied Arthur. “He wasn’t born as a Twill, so he does not have our blood or our magic. But he will receive the same education as you, and will serve as a good partner once he’s grown up.”
Xandar was currently sleeping in his mother’s arms, as worry free as a year old baby could be. The woman herself made a quick motion of her head, indicating Arthur to come with her. Once they were both in a room where Msyk couldn’t hear them, she asked “Are you sure that you aren’t too harsh on him? He’s still a boy”.
“Maybe... But he needs to learn how to master his body and powers as fast as possible so he can practice. You know what our Lord is predicting as much as I do, and there will be a great conflict in less than a quarter of a century. And I’m confident that Msyk can play a definite role in it, should he be made ready in time.”
“Aren’t you putting a bit too much on his shoulders? We don’t even know if such conflict will even happen. Xypherous has been wrong a few rare times, or we managed to avert some of them.”
“Only a minority, sadly. And I would rather be prepared should this conflict ever come. Let me do so, please, Guine. Trust me in this one more time.”
Arthur’s wife knew that there was no use arguing with him. When Arthur had an idea in his mind, he rarely steered away from it. As Arthur returned to Msyk, he saw that his young child was trying to stand up anew. At least he was determined, he thought.
“As I explained to you, once again. Focus on both of your elements, and channel them separately. Each arm is a canal towards each of your hands, which are catalysts. Focus not on one or the other, but on both as if they were a single entity.”
Msyk wondered why his father was being so strict with him, but learned better than to argue. He would have his chance to have things his way later.
---------------------------------------------------One year later-------------------------------------------------------
Msyk, now eight years old, was leaning on a book about the history of the Institute of War, a similar organisation to the Xyphuminati on a far away continent in Runeterra. As he was starting the chapter about the Fields of Justice, his father entered in his room with a stranger. The newcomer was bald, probably by birth, and wore a monk-like grey robe. His body stature was very impressive: clearly, the man had a lot of strength to resort with. Closing his book, Msyk looked at his father.
“Msyk, you may know my good friend here, Mushoh. He’s one of our finest arms master and martial artist.” Msyk gazed at the newcomer. His deep brown eyes left him an impression of calm, patient stoicism. And by his title, the young Xyphuminati had an idea of why he was there.
“My son, I’m very proud of you. You’ve tempered your mental strength extremely well in a very short time. And now you have to create your physical strength.”
“Why don’t you do it yourself, father?” asked the boy. He was used to his father both giving out his education and his magical teachings. Surely he could do the same with his training?
“Because I’m no fighter, Msyk. I focused everything in my studies, never raising a single blade in my entire life. That was a mistake for me. A mistake that I do not want you to reproduce. Everything in the human being must be balanced, even his physical and mental strengths. This is called versatility. You need to be able to adapt to your functions, something that I lack at times.”
Msyk wasn’t sure where his father was going with all of this. Those were concepts that he still didn’t fully grasp.
“Isn’t there another way? I’ve been hanging out with some friends outside and we fight from time to time. That’s good enough training.”
Mushoh laughed very calmly at the interjection. “Training is the best of all exercises for the body and the soul. One must unite his with body and fuse with his weapon, to gain complete control and mastery of his actions. And this cannot be done overnight. Training is the only valid method.”
“If there is a new way” said Arthur “I’ll be the first in line. But it better work this time.”
“Come outside now Msyk. We shall begin now.”
Msyk began to follow his new master across their house. He encountered midway his mother and little brother, who was playing with some of his older toys. Their house was well decorated with abstract painting and plants. Msyk’s mother also made it an honor to keep it clean at all time. Like most buildings in the capital, it was made of a slightly darker yet similar material to marble, giving the entire metropolis a clean and uniform aspect, although many sigils or small paintings could be seen to identify families, signs and merchants. Msyk and Mushoh arrived into a verdant and clean backyard.
Mushoh grabbed one of the prepared wooden poles for the training and gave it to Msyk, keeping the longer one for himself. Msyk had a fiery look in his eyes, ready to show that he wasn’t a simple kid. Noticing such passion, Mushoh placed himself in guard and invited Msyk to simply attack, to judge what exactly he was capable of.
Msyk took a good measure of his new weapon. He had never fought with a pole before, using only sticks to simulate swords. Once he felt comfortable with it, Msyk dashed forward, executing a swift left sidestep at the last second to surprise Mushoh with an unexpected hit. As Msyk thought that his first blow would connect, he felt his pole vibrate shortly, indicating a perfect block from the monk. Msyk jumped backwards and began his assault anew, alternating left and right blows with both ends of his weapon. Each one of them was perfectly parried by his extremely calm sensei, who barely moved his arms. Not once did he flinch.
Deciding to take a new course of action, Msyk swung forward once again. At the last second before connecting a hit, Msyk vanished into the shadows, completely disappearing from Mushoh’s line of sight. The monk gasped, but didn’t remain shocked for more than a split second. Turning around, he executed a swift swipe with his own pole, hitting a reappearing Msyk with perfect timing. The blow was very strong, sending him rolling several feet away, with a very large bruise on his cheek. Msyk tried to stand up with the help of his weapon, but was too confused by the blow to his head to succeed in doing so. Mushoh began to walk slowly towards him, lecturing and yet praising him.
“I definitely didn’t expect such a young boy to pull out an Umbra Step. You’re pretty smart and energetic for your age. But you have much to learn yet. You’re too impatient. A fight isn’t won by recklessness, but by patience. Useless assaults will only result in exhaustion. Conserve yourself.”
Sitting down, Msyk was somewhat pouting as he was putting pressure on his injured cheek. He almost had him. But the master had seen through his tactic.
“I believe that I have a good idea of your global capabilities. We will begin your real training tomorrow at dawn. And trust me, it will be rough.” Mushoh was now going away, satisfied with the little time that he had to pass with such boy. Deep inside of him, he thought that he would enjoy the following year. There was only one prodigy such as this one each decade.
Msyk retreated to his bed, refusing any offer of ice or other healing method of his worried mother. His young pride was too wounded to accept any help.
-------------------------------------------<Insert here overnight old-school RPG music>----------------------------------
Msyk woke up in an instant, shaken by his worried father.
“You’ve almost overslept, it’s already four thirty. Mushoh is here for you. You’ll be going out with him for the day. He’s instructed to teach you the basics martial arts and weapon play for the next eight month starting from now.”
Msyk nodded, half still asleep, half still wounded at his pride. Getting up and preparing himself as fast as possible, he exited the house with warm dark blue clothing. The Xyphuminati capital was almost always cold as it was a southern area, but rarely had any precipitation, making snow a rare event. Water was supplied with a proper irrigation and modern aqueduct system from not too far away mountains. Msyk saw his new master waiting on the street outside, his arms crossed.
“Sorry. Will we be fighting again?”
“No. We will only fight during the last month. For the next seven months, we will simply develop your strength and endurance. After that, it’s your grand entrance at the Academy.”
Msyk had heard many things about the Academy before. It was there that most students learn about the history of both the world and the Xyphuminaties, as well as military and or sorcery training. He at first thought that he had an edge over all the students, his father training and educating him at a very young age. But his recent encounter with Mushoh showed him that there was still room for many improvements.
“So, what will we be doing?”
“Follow me.” Simply said the tutor as he began to jog southward. After about fifteen minutes of jogging, they arrived at a commercial building. Mushoh approach one of the supervisor and talked to him shortly, before returning to Msyk with a box.
“What’s in this?”
“Milk. You will be doing the milk deliveries across the city for the next two hours.”
Msyk frowned at the idea. To him, such a silly task wasn’t any training. Taking the box with reluctance, he began to weight it. It wasn’t too heavy, but walking around with it for two hours would tire his arms for sure.
“Follow me. We have two kilometers to do before the first delivery.”
“Two kilometers? Are we going out of the city and into small towns?”
“Yes.” replied the master before beginning to jog anew. Msyk followed him at the same pace, very skeptical about such methods. After what seemed to be an eternity, he finally reached his first delivery point. Placing a new bottle and taking the empty one, Msyk returned to his sensei.
“You took the empty one?” Msyk nodded, panting a bit. “Very well. Let’s move on to the next house. It’s actually a monastery this time. Up there.” did Mushoh say, pointing at a not too distant mountain.
“Are you... crazy? We have to... climb up that... mountain?”
“There are stairs, don’t worry. You can walk too.”
After another exhausting walk, Msyk placed and took bottles once again. As he was about to leave, a priest came out of the monastery, greeting the two delivery men.
“Well hello there, young man. And good morning to you, Mushoh. I see you have a new pupil.”
“Yes. And he’s doing fairly well. With a complete training, he’ll be ready to tackle the Academy in less than a year.”
Msyk observed the two of them conversing with skepticism. He didn’t feel like transporting milk across distance was a good training. But his father would scold him if he decided to disobey. Once both man finished their discussion, Msyk and Mushoh resumed their job. For the following three hours they ran across different areas of wilderness, including a freezing snow field and a large hot spring. Once all the bottles were delivered, they returned in town to give the empty ones to the milk farm.
“You did a good job. This was the very early training. Now on to the early training. You will be plowing grounds in a farm.”
This new assignment once again made Msyk frown. Was there any logic to his method? Reaching the closest local farm, Msyk grabbed a plow. As he was about to begin his task, Mushoh interrupted him. He had just finished dealing with the local farmer about this task, and had a special twist for his student.
“Do not use any tools. Use just your hands.”
“Wait, what? Are you crazy?! Why would I do that?”
“To develop your arm muscles.”
Msyk was sure that the monk was mad. Plowing cold farming fields for two hours with his bare hands? This was unheard of. Once again reluctant, Msyk decided to remain disciplined and did as he was asked. After two hours, he returned to his trainer.
“I can’t feel my hands...” did a panting Msyk say.
“That means that you’re doing good. We will plow a great surface from now on, too. Now come, it’s lunch break.”
After a modest meal composed of chicken and carrots, Msyk was led back to the hot spring by Mushoh, the same one that he crossed to deliver milk.
“You are to swim back and forth the longer portion of it. Ten times.”
Msyk had a bit of time to recover with the meal, but he didn’t feel like swimming much at the moment.
“What if I don’t?”
“Well, you’ll have to deal with your father.”
The young trainee shivered at the idea. Removing most of his cloth, he entered into the spring and began the swim. Once that was done, he dried himself as quickly as possible with some form of towel that Mushoh brought. He didn’t plan on staying wet in the cold areas of his continent very long. Once he was dry and dressed again, Mushoh led him to the final exercise of the day. He attached him to the trunk of a tall tree, the rope barely giving him room to move further than 5 feet away from it.
“Now what is this for?”
“You’ll see.” said a smiling Mushoh. Grabbing his pole, he smashed a close bee nest, before running away as fast as he could. Once he was at a safe distance, he shouted at Msyk. “This is to practice your reflexes. Avoid being stung!”
After half an hour, the young boy was stung almost everywhere. But all the bees were dead, smashed or squashed. Msyk had tried several times at cutting the rope, but never managed to do it while being assaulted at every bit of his skin by the tiny insects. As he was trying once again to untie the knot, Mushoh began to approach him.
“You did decently, I guess.” said the monk as he was untying the rope. “We are done for the day. Go back home, and wake up on time tomorrow. We’ll be doing this every day, and it will keep getting harder.”
“How can... it be... harder than all... of this?”
“Well for starters, you’ll deliver milk at more addresses. And you will have a larger field to plow. More laps to swim. And you will be wearing these...” said Mushoh while he was looking into a bag that Msyk hadn’t notice before. He took out some clothes that were smaller yet identical to his, some grey monk-like robes. He passed them to Msyk, who almost fell down under their weight. “They are about twenty pounds. This will slow you down at first, but it will make you more robust at the end.”
For once, Msyk wondered who was stricter. His father, or his tutor. Both seemed to have pros and cons...
Three months passed with such intensive training. Msyk felt like it was all wasted. No real fighting, no weapons play, no magic. Just mundane jobs. One day before the milk delivery, he decided to rebel himself against Mushoh for good.
“I’ve had enough. This is pointless.”
“Really? Please, do tell Msyk.”
Msyk didn’t say anything, but disarmed the pole in his master’s hand and swung it at his cheek, partially for revenge. The monk was very surprised by such act, but managed to parry the blow with his hand, an inch before it reached his face. He tried to retaliate with a punch to Msyk’s stomach, to teach this little kid his place, but Msyk dodged the punch, before throwing out a new assault with the pole to his master. Mushoh easily took back his pole, leaving Msyk armless. But not without his will. Mushoh was now swinging his pole towards Msyk’s stomach, attempting to knock the air out of him, but the pupil stopped the weapon mid-swing with his foot, before throwing out a punch of his own, full steam ahead. Mushoh sidestep to Msyk’s left, avoiding the punch. And it was too late for Msyk to stop his charge, he was going to hit the milk farm. But instead of injuring himself as he thought that he would, he partially damaged the stone-like building. And felt almost no pain in his fist.
Msyk was astounded by this weird situation. He looked at his master, almost begging for an explanation. Reading in his eyes, Mushoh began to say. “I think that you now know what all of this was for. And you’ve made stellar progress. So we are going to crank up the difficulty even more.” and with that said, he pulled out identical clothing to Msyk’s training ones. Identical in all points except one. “Those weigh 40 pounds, doubling your extra weight.”
Msyk nodded, now accepting his master’s training entirely. He resumed his jobs with his new apparel, which made him feel like he was wearing the weight on the world on his shoulders. A horrible feeling.
-------------------------------------------------------Four months later------------------------------------------------------------
Msyk rose up from his bed at four in the morning, as usual. He dressed up, eat a simple orange as a breakfast, since that’s all he needed to be ‘k, finished his daily preparations and went out to meet his master. Msyk was turning nine in two months. And in three, he was to set foot in the Academy, part of the new wave of students. He was determined to be the best, to blow out of the water all the previous challenge records, and much more.
Once outside of his house, Msyk noticed something strange with Mushoh. He was carrying two poles – the same two that was used in their fight on day one – instead of his normal bag.
“Has it already been eight months, master?”
“Yes. From now on, you will practice fighting. But be aware that fighting must not be used as a way to reach your goal. Combat is meant for defense or when all other methods have failed. If you can, try to talk like a civilized human being to who you are facing. Normally, both parties would love to avoid injuries. Normally.”
With such words of wisdom, Mushoh began to walk towards the plains north of the city. This is where they would practice for the remaining time of Msyk’s tutoring. Over the course of this last month, Msyk was thought many combat notions such as forward offense and defensive stances. Proper parrying, blocking when possible and to rely on dodging only if it was the last measure of avoidance left. One particular day, Mushoh was teaching Msyk a very special technique.
“Try again. It’s a very finicky one.”
Msyk focused on his pole, unleashing most of his energy into a single blow as he charged from his right. Msyk was very tempted to look at his left, to see if he succeeded, but that would sell out the subterfuge. Swinging his pole wildly, he aimed at Mushoh’s hip, who stepped back at the last second, leaving Msyk sliding a bit on the ground before recovering from his momentum.
“Excellent. You’ve done it properly this time, forcing me to dodge backwards.”
Msyk didn’t see the results himself, but if his master said that it was perfect, then it had to be. He was smiling, his eyes almost sparkling due to his success.
“Remember well, though: The Catropt Assault is mainly about being elusive. You’re foe must not know what exactly is coming at him. If you fail at focusing your energy properly, or if you look somewhere else, the trickery becomes obvious. Also, be aware that using such technique requires you to tunnel vision yourself onto hitting your target. This is a double edged sword.”
“Very well. I’m proud of the progress you made. Your entry to the Academy of Balance is in a three days. You can take them to relax and recover. Me and your father will be there for your inscription and the... entry rites. You will enjoy those.”
Msyk nodded. He had no idea what to expect of the details of the Academy. Everyone was extremely dodgy when it came to giving detailed explanations. But he felt confident that he would succeed in any test, whether it was physical, mental or educational. The Xyphuminaties were a proud and educated country that believed in both everyone’s individual strength and wisdom, and into the power of the collective people.
Mushoh dismissed the young fighter before going back to his house. Msyk slowly walked, recapitulating his progress into his head over and over again. He had learned much, and saw visible improvements over his body. The training method that he followed was unorthodox, but yielded outstanding results. He couldn’t wait to test himself. While he’s never managed to lay a single hit onto Mushoh, he forced him to do a few efforts, a considerable difference compared to the past.
Reaching his home, Msyk immediately searched for his father. Every limb of his body was aching, but he felt invigorated deep inside. Finding his father in his study, books at hand as usual. The study was pretty much a small library: books, tomes and parchments onto shelves that covered most of the walls. There was a small desk in a corner, a chair to go with. Everything was lit by magic, a white sphere hovering near the ceiling giving the room a white, plain ambience. Arthur was sitting at the desk, transcribing notes from two open books onto a sheet of paper. Msyk silently approached him, knowing to not interrupt his father during his work. He patiently waited for his father to give him attention when he was ready. Once Arthur finished writing down a line, he deposited his pen and turned around to face his son.
“I see that you’ve been taught discipline on top of physical training.”
Msyk’s musculature had improved a lot during the last eight month. He was now stronger and sturdier. He had the same physique as his father, fairly slim for his height, so he would probably never become a towering colossus of muscle. But he definitely gained a few pounds in muscle. But most noticeably, Msyk was a lot calmer then he used to be. He wasn’t a perfectly obedient kid and still looked at everything with skepticism, but he learned that placing trust in people can help when the said people have your good interest in mind.
Arthur stood from his chair to take a good measure of his son. He was now nine, and was exactly what he had hoped. A strong and smart child that he could be proud of.
“It’s almost time. Are you ready, Msyk?”
Msyk nodded, being pushed by his father. The few following days he passed were his chance to be lazy. After relaxing a bit and recovering from his aching body, the grand day finally came. Getting up as usual like every morning, Msyk took out his regular casual dark blue clothing instead of the heavy weighted robes that he had for training. He was heading out with his family, Xandar actually being able to walk now and being held by the hand by their mother. Midway towards the main street in the capital city, the Twills met Mushoh, who was definitely bent on seeing his pupil’s initiation.
Xyphuminaties Msyk and Xandar, several decades back. Part II
Msyk remained silent for the entire trip towards the renown Academy, but Arthur and Mushoh were exchanging stories of their time in there, as well as formalities. The tall and large white building was soon upon sight, leaving its majestic presence of pride to anyone who would observe it. Many families were also gathering towards its entrances. The Twills went in line. Although Arthur, as one of the Council of Seven, could skip any lines and directly register his son, he preferred to demonstrate fairness and patience. They all waited a few hours in line, observing the sun passing high in the sky and feeling the warm breeze of the day in the clean odorless city. Soon enough, their turn came. As Arthur closed in onto the registration booth, the man in charge gave a hiccup of surprise.
“Arthur. What a surprise to see you here. What brings you back to the Academy, old fellow?”
“Not much. My son’s just turned nine, and he’s been preparing for this rite of passage as a rightful Xyphuminati.” mentioned Arthur, pride obviously overflowing from his tone of voice. The person in charge took a good gaze at Msyk, who felt a bit intimidated by the overflowing amounts of people around and the huge size of the academy itself. The supervisor also noticed Mushoh, who was rarely seen in company of other people when it came to registration.
“Well hello there, arms master. Are you accompanying Sir Arthur too?”
The positive response made the registration overseer realise that Arthur’s son was a big deal. The inscription to the Academy was made immediately, and Msyk was invited to step in. He was assigned a room to which he left his belongings and installed himself. He was to pass the next nine months as a student of the Academy of Balance, then three months of vacation. This routine would last up to nine years, before officially leaving as a full-fledged agent of the Xyphuminati. The process was very complicated and drilled many ideologies into everyone’s mind. Msyk took the day to explore the huge building. It had many resorts and rooms with tons of varied equipment, some ancient and some modern. Msyk didn’t really meet anyone that day, but felt like he grasped in a much better way his new environment. His father and Mushoh prepared him for this, and he would not fail them.
After a night of little sleep, where Msyk mainly watched the ceiling since he needed very little rest, the day hadn’t been demanding on him at all, a general bell rang across the entire Academy, prompting all students to gather in the central reunion hall. Not sure yet what were the exact directions to follow, Msyk followed the general mob of older students. Arriving into the hall, Msyk leaned back onto a wall, noticing the general tension in the air, especially coming from the younger people. Boys and girls of all colors and style were flowing inside the room, curious about what was to be expected. The veterans already had an idea of what was going to ensure, so many older students didn’t attend immediately to the opening speech.
“Welcome to all the newcomers, and welcome back to everyone who was here previously. It is a huge honor to greet you all inside our wonderful institution...”
Msyk didn’t pay much attention to what seemed like the director of the Academy’s greeting and formal speech to all of the students. The vast majority of his presentation involved pride and duty of the position of their people, self respect and the idea of trust and cooperation. It was all duties that were being transmitted, good values that the Xyphuminaties wanted to be shared among their compatriots and transferred into the next generation. Msyk was about to go away when the supposed and yet not presented director stepped down of the middle podium, leaving the place to another officer of the Academy. This one requested that every student to reach inside the Maghtere hall for the first battle royal of this year.
Msyk wasn’t sure what to expect from such event. Was every single student of the school going to wage an all out fight? They were probably half a thousand total, and many students were far older then the newcomers. Was this supposed to be fair? The freshman followed his compatriots, soon reaching small doorway. Before entering in, Msyk curiously gazed inside, wondering what exactly was awaiting, and was baffled to see the change in decoration. He had the impression of being inside a huge cavern, the entire ground of the color brown, many stalagmites and stalactites were visible until one could no longer notice the horizon. It didn’t seem like this chasm had an end in any direction. Stepping inside, Msyk noticed that the doorway itself was standing as if it was coming from nowhere. A floating platform was also noticeable, and many adult observers were already standing on it. Msyk quickly noticed both his father and master among the crowd, and nodded at them. He wasn’t sure what to expect yet, but he felt ready for it.
The closest open area had many wooden weaponry of all kinds. The older students already had grabbed their favorites, while the younger ones were awaiting to see what was happening, As the doors closed behind everyone, the previous officer was the last to enter the Maghtere hall, and began a short introduction to what was to follow.
“Welcome to the first Battle Royale. This competition is meant to measure everyone’s progress onto their military training over the course of the year. This is foremost to test yourself and your limits, not the others. There are three of them each year. The rules are very simple: You are all to grab a wood weapon inside one of the racks nearby, and to fight everyone you meet for your survival. You can use magic also. This place is enchanted to prevent injuries, but doesn’t stop suffering. There are currently 482 participants, but don’t let that number phase you, it will dwindle down very fast. As fewer contestants remain, the limits of the Maghtere hall’s magical boundaries will shrink. You cannot win by hiding forever. Once you are hit by a blow that would normally kill you, you are to remain on the ground until the competition is over. Any failure to respect this single rule will result in heavy penalties. Temporary alliances are allowed, but remember that you want to come up on top, so watch your back under all circumstances. The final ten survivors will have their name displayed onto the wall of fame until the next Battle royal. Is everything clear?”
Since absolutely no objections happened from the crowd of students, the supervisor simply reached the observation level, before cutting off the access of the stairs, the gallery now fully floating magically. During that time, Msyk reached what seemed to be a rack of wooden pole, but it was in reality a spear. Not being picky since the free for all would start soon, Msyk grabbed one and measured its weight and balance, finding it quite comfortable. It was familiar yet different, and gave him a fresh feeling of unseen power.
Msyk began to wander off to a section towards the eastern area of the Maghtere hall when somebody grabbed him by the shoulder. There was still five minutes before hostilities began, and he wondered what this was all about. Turning around, he saw a platinum blond haired guy of about his age, sword in hand. He didn’t seem aggressive to mean, although his eyes shined with pleasure.
“Feel like teaming up? It’ll be easier at the beginning if we have somebody covering our back.”
Msyk wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the newcomer’s invitation. But he decided to rely on his past experiences and trust him. And he was right: having your rear covered was a great thing in this hostile environment. “Sure. You and I until nobody else remains, then we fight for top one or two. Sounds fair?”
“Sure does!” did the newcomer say, extending his hand. “I’m Yoshiya Kiryu. And you are?”
“Msyk Twill.” did he respond, shaking his hand to seal the deal.
“Wait, Msyk Twill, the Msyk from the rumors?”
Msyk was shocked at first. There were rumors going about on his name after a single day at the Academy? “What rumors? It’s my first year here.”
“You are the pupil of Mushoh, the legendary arms master? He’s trained you for real?”
“Well yes... and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.”
Yoshiya seemed very impressed and his regards towards Msyk was now with a lot of respect. “You know that he almost never takes anybody under his wing, right?”
“No, I didn’t know that. I just got introduced to him, and did the work that he asked.”
“You are one of the luckiest contestants in this Academy and you didn’t even know it!”
Msyk was about to reply when the horn that signaled the beginning of the battle royal resounded in this underground facility. Yoshiya was now looking at him straight in the eyes, very satisfied of his alliance. Before anything could be said, Yoshiya ran off towards their first target, yelling at Msyk. “Follow my lead!”
“Screw that!” did Msyk reply, trying to get ahead. This was at first a game for them. They easily dispatched single foes of their age who knew not what to expect, and before fifteen minutes passed, a voice could be heard declaring. “Two hundred and fifty contestants remaining.”
“Good.” said Yoshiya “That’s pretty much half of everyone eliminated.”
They were now walking, keeping their energy for the important moments. They quickly came to realise that they were probably the youngest students still standing, which worried them a bit. Turning around a particularly large stalagmite, the two young ones saw a much older student violently finishing off a mid-aged girl, before turning around, observing the two younger foes that he was now facing. With a malicious grin on his face, he began to approach, slowly at first, before dashing rapidly towards Msyk. As he was almost upon sword reach – Msyk noticed that almost everyone preferred swords over any other weapon – when the voice could be heard again. “One hundred contestants remaining.”
Msyk was about to parry and counter the older student’s blow when he vanished in a blink of light. Msyk quickly spun around, expecting him to resume his charge from behind, but saw nobody.
“Above you Msyk!” was all he heard. Understanding on the spot what was coming, Msyk stepped into the shadows, vanishing on his turn. He reappeared right besides the older bully, swinging the larger section of his wooden spear at him. His foe blocked the first hit, retaliated and shoved Msyk away, making his feet slide a bit on the ground’s dirt.
“So, you’re the Msyk guy that everyone’s talking about huh? Mushoh’s ‘protégé’.”
Msyk didn’t bother talking to him. He was tunnel vision on beating the **** out of him.
“You’re just over talked about. You don’t look anything special. I’ll just crush you and pass to the next guy.” the older student was clearly taunting him to attack, which Msyk accepted with vicious pleasure. Finally, he had a challenge, and even hoped that Yoshiya didn’t jump in.
Msyk ran head first onto his challenger, before jumping ridiculously high for what his young body would normally allow. Being within weapon’s reach of his foe’s head, he begin to swing his entire body in a rolling vertical motion, spear aimed at knocking him off. The older student didn’t expect that at all, but managed to sidestep outside of the linear attack. Msyk landed very smoothly, but was a bit dizzy by the maneuver. “This was stupid” did he think.
The other student didn’t give him a moment’s respite, charging full steam ahead with one thing in mind: pulling himself ahead in the battle royal. Swinging his factice sword, he pressured Msyk to make a mistake. The young contender defended himself very well against the barrage of slices that were coming his way, but he had to gain the offensive, otherwise he would falter sooner or later. Deciding to use a vicious maneuver, he slid his opponent’s sword down his spear handle, lowering his guard significantly. Although he could pull any direct hit, Msyk had a few ideas in mind. Using the lower portion of the pole, he quickly placed it on the ground as a counterweight and lifted himself up, executing a powerful high-kick to his foe’s face. The bully was now stumbling and disarmed, and Msyk only needed to execute him. A swift blow at the stomach made quick history of this challenger, and Msyk passed to his next goal. Still over surged with adrenaline, he almost strike Yoshiya as he came back closer.
“Calm down dude. That was amazing! There’s no way that you’ll lose the battle royal! You just need to remain focused, and not hit me.”
Msyk was still breathing fast. His instincts had overtaken him in this last encounter, but he felt invigorated by such victory. A finisher, beaten by a freshman? That was probably very rare. The two students resumed their hunt, confident of their victory. After picking up a few new targets, some more challenging than others, the two companions were confident in their victory. Yoshiya wasn’t sure about beating Msyk anymore, and was contemplating a few other options. The announcer warned them of the dwindling numbers of fighters, announcing soon enough fifty and shortly after twenty-five. Very soon, they much more immobilized bodies on the ground then actual still in the run contestants. After beating off a few other people, they stumbled upon two things. The first a group of two boys and a girl, clearly close to being in their final years in the school. The other was the announcer.
“Congratulations. Ten contestants remaining. Your names will all be in the wall of fame. May the best of you get the better positions.”
The trio was a bit worried at first to see two freshmen still standing while everyone was in the top ten. But they outnumbered and out powered them clearly, so they confidence came back. Yoshiya called dibs on the older looking guy, and decided to leave the two others to Msyk . “Works for you?”
“What do you think?” replied a grinning Msyk, now holding his spear with both hands, ready for anything.
Msyk let his partner handle the other guy and dashed onto his two targets, who were awaiting him firmly. Preparing himself, he raised his spear over his shoulder with a single hand, before releasing a pre-emptively prepared spark of light from his left hand. As he unleashed this blinding light he closed his eyes, not to be affected by it. Reopening them, Msyk finished his charge, aiming at the girl’s head while she wasn’t able to see. His blow was blocked by the other student, who had seen through his tactic and avoided being blinded. Considering him a bigger threat from now on, Msyk focused on dueling with him, although he kept an eye on the woman. They were fierce fighters in and of themselves, but their tag team hit and run tactic was really annoying. Msyk now had a better idea of how everyone felt when both him and Yoshiya were tag teaming on them.
Deciding that he had enough to play on their terms, Msyk took several steps back to avoid being caught in-between them. From now on, he would only fight when they were both in his line of sight, otherwise he could take steps away. He hoped that their proximity to each other would hinder them. This tactic partially worked, except that the girl was bombarding him with spells now when he was fleeing, and Msyk almost got hit at his legs several times. Small fires were now covering their playing field, and Msyk had to avoid being onto those on top of his two challengers.
(This isn’t good. I have to do something, or they’ll get me eventually.)
After easily an hour of fighting and surviving, Msyk was now starting to feel exhaustion entering his system. Fortunately, this was true for his two opponents also. That’s when it hit him. He didn’t need to win, he just needed to wait for them to lose. Taking a swift deep breath, Msyk focused what remaining forces he had left and began a dodging game, a dance of patience with his two adversaries. Side stepping, blocking, deflecting blows, Msyk never stood on the offensive. He didn’t really have the chance to, so he conserved his energy as much as possible. If he couldn’t out strength them, he would outlast them. And his gamble paid off quicker than he expected. The guy at some point tripped, and Msyk seized the opportunity to step into the shadows before he even fell on the ground. Reappearing right behind, the spear user executed a wild vertical slash at his back, putting him out of the competition for good. The girl quickly followed, not giving him much resistance on her own.
Msyk then began to look for Yoshiya, hoping that he had better luck then him. He couldn’t see him, but he heard close noises of combat, and turning around a stalagmite, he saw his partner falling on the ground, at the mercy of his enemy. As he was savoring his moment, Msyk dashed forward, striking his back. He fell on the ground at his turn, swearing at both his mistake and Msyk’s opportunism. This technically made them seventh and sixth, if nothing else had happened while they were working.
Msyk gave his hand to Yoshiya. He wasn’t out of combat yet, and was bent on keeping his promise. His colleague grabbed his hand, and both students smiled at each other, complicity in their eyes. Msyk then turned around and began his march. They still had a few targets to clear. After he took his first step, Msyk felt a blunt pain surging through his head and fell on the ground. “You are eliminated” gently passed in his head, probably by the announcer. The next thing he noticed was his father and Mushoh, who were contemplating them from the obscure observation level, clear disappointment painted in their face. He had come so far and yet fell short. His next view was set upon Yoshiya, who was now walking away, not even looking at Msyk. All he could do was whisper “traitor...”
The battle royal ended about ten minutes later. Everyone was prompted to leave the room, as it was to be disconnected from the actual reality. The Maghtere hall was magically summoned through the doorway, as it was clearly bigger then what you would expect of a room to be in the building. Stepping outside, Msyk followed everybody to the leaderboard. The top ten names were indeed shown, and everybody was gazing at them with jealousy. He could read his own name in seventh place, and Yoshiya was standing proudly in fourth. He managed to avoid elimination to rank up that way, probably. Msyk started to go away from the billboard, but noticed the traitor from far away. Sprinting towards him, Msyk angrily grabbed his arm, awaiting an explanation.
“Sorry for what? Being stupid? We had this! If you wouldn’t have been a complete idiot, we could have been first and second respectively instead of seventh and fourth!”
“I know. But have you seen yourself dude? I don’t know what Mushoh’s training is made of, but you’re clearly out of everyone’s league!”
Msyk didn’t exactly felt this way. He had to do efforts to stand off against the older foes. If he was really that exceptional, he should have easily beaten out everybody.
“You really don’t realise it, do you? You’re gifted. You’re an excellent fighter, swift and strong. And you have very good mastery of magic too. Don’t compare yourself to adults, it’s all of that at our age that makes your exceptional.” Msyk still wasn’t convinced. “Just... calm down. It’s just that after seeing you in action, being over you in ranking is much more impressive than being number two. I’m sorry.”
Despite the compliment, Msyk was still very angry. Both at himself and at Yoshiya. He felt betrayed. He placed his trust in what he thought would be his first friend in the Academy, and he got turned down for simple personal glory over what Msyk considered to be a rumor about him. Yoshiya must have felt his anger because he liberated himself from Msyk’s grasp and ran away, not looking back at him.
“I’ll get you first next time. Traitor.” let out Msyk in a single whisper. He regained his room, being told that this was all the activities for today. They were also warned to be up early in the reunion hall tomorrow, where they would be assigned their classes and expeditions. Msyk held his grudge towards Yoshiya up until the next battle royal. In the meantime, he attended to his regular classes, and fortunately for both of them never crossed the traitor’s path again. Pretty much all of what he was being thought bored him to death, mainly because his father already had covered everything in his private lessons. He did notice that he wasn’t alone in this scenario too, some other students seemingly having learned earlier the contents of the Academy. The history and literature classes were rather dull in Msyk’s eyes. The physical educations were a breeze, and the magic lessons brought him no excitement whatsoever.
It was with dull boredom that Msyk awaited the next battle royal. Only one thing remained in his mind: revenge. The Academy so far had brought him nothing except for negative feelings, and he didn’t understand why everyone held this establishment with such high regards. Weeks passed, and then months, and then the hour of vindication came. It was time for the middle term battle royal. And Msyk made himself an honor code of making Yoshiya pay, and to trust only himself in this hostile environment. The same rules were explained once again, and as the fight began, Msyk hunted down his prey. He found Yoshiya very quickly, and almost instantaneously knocked him out with every ounce of hatred that he held for all this time. The rest of the fight went off as normal, but Msyk felt short of exhaustion as he was one of the last three remaining, and fell victim to a new foe. Stepping outside in what was to become a ritual for the next nine years, Msyk gazed at the leaderboard. Only his name was repeated from the previous leaderboard, a small star besides his name indicating such feat. And he was higher ranked then the first time. Rumors began to run around about him aplenty.
Msyk didn’t exactly care about them. But he was keeping notes of all that he heard in a journal that he began to hold after the second battle royal. He wrote in it most of his thoughts. The rest of the year went by in boredom. Day and night alternated, Msyk living his life as it passed by. And then, the final battle royal came. Msyk felt like he saw nothing new by then, and like when he was being tutored by Mushoh, this was all to him precious time wasted. He won the final first place in the battle royal, something that no first grade had ever done in the last five decades. Msyk left the Academy without a look behind him, and returned home. His small vacation passed by very quickly, his father refusing to answer his questions and frustrations. The only thing that he dared to reply was “You will understand in due time, my son.”
The second year began, and this one passed by even faster than the first. Fortunately, it wasn’t as boring for Msyk was the first one was. Scoring first again in the opening battle royal, Msyk began to talk to people of his age, to socialise. He quickly realised that the other students could be friendly too, and that passing time with other people was far more enjoyable as a social experience. His reputation was also now preceding him, and people began to have split feelings about him. Many idealized him as the next generation leader, or even a member of the Council of Seven. Others were jealous of his exploits and hated him, embed onto crushing this young kid who was beating all scores and records. A third, more minor portion of the Academy never really met Msyk in person, and had no clear idea of what to think of these gossips about him.
Overall the second year passed in a much more lighthearted note then the first, but Msyk’s curiosity still wasn’t satisfied. He saw nothing new that was noteworthy, simply having made friends. He also discovered a new and interesting game called chess. He enjoyed the mental stimuli of the tactics of this game, and appreciated rounds of this game as much as he enjoyed the battle royals themselves.
Years passed. Third, fourth and fifth grade. Nothing interesting was happening in Msyk’s opinion. He managed to remain in first place on all the battle royals except for one, where he had been assaulted by pretty much everyone in the Maghtere hall, preventing him from creeping up early in the ranks. He didn’t mind too much; he had by then realised that he was a challenge to anyone. But the years slowly faded away in boredom. Until the sixth one, during which two things happened. The first left Msyk extremely happy. It was his little brother’s entry in the Academy. Msyk proudly greeted him, and explained everything that he needed to know. But he felt like it was best for Xandar to leave him fare by himself. He’s also encountered him several times during the first battle royal, but did nothing to interrupt him. He did end up falling in the top hundred, which was still very good for a freshman. Msyk once again kept his first place. Once outside, he reunited with his brother and they began conversing.
“You did good out there. I’m impressed. Did Mushoh train you too?”
“No. I just went along with what all the children were doing in the street.”
Msyk frowned at such statement. If he was worthy of Mushoh’s attention, why wasn’t his little brother? The fact that he was adopted didn’t change much, at least in Msyk’s mind. He took a good look at Xandar, who was now nine. Msyk was fifteen himself, and seeing his little brother’s entry in the Academy brought him back to his own in what seemed like a now distant past. After reliving such a boring moment of his life, Msyk started tutoring Xandar on what to expect. He didn’t meet him very often during the remaining of the year, but he knew that he was doing great when he caught glimpses of him.
The other thing that happened was the beginning of the inter-continental expeditions. This was relevant to Msyk’s interests. They were to pass for groups of tourists, and observe the life style of every country. This was a much more active life that Msyk enjoyed very much, much more than staying confined inside with books. They passed about one third of the time out on the field observing of the year’s educational curriculum.
Sadly, these times passed way too fast in Msyk’s opinion. They returned confined in the walls of the Academy too early. Also, Msyk began to see things from a new perspective about his education, and began to learn new things in class. Stuff that his father never had the chance to cover. His general education improved. Msyk learned everything that was necessary to a man of his status: knowledge, magic, combat, experience, patience. The only thing that missed was leadership. That would come over time as a trait, or would never come.
His two next years passed rather quickly. Msyk was now very glad to have been part of the institution that is the Academy of Balance, and proud of being a Xyphuminati. Partially because he felt like their goal represented his values, partially because of the Xyphuminaties morals being drilled slowly in his mind. The rest of his time in the Academy went off smoothly.
Xyphuminaties Msyk and Xandar and a special guest, several decades back. Part III
But one final event marked Msyk and Xandar. In the beginning of Msyk’s senior year, new rumors began to roam. One in particular caught his attention. Msyk was now eighteen years old, officially an adult in the Xyphuminati ruling. And he had begun to hear news about Mushoh having taken a new disciple. And an outsider on top of that! Msyk and Xandar awaited outside near the regular registration booth, awaiting to see the newcomer. After several hours of nail biting patience, Msyk finally saw his former mentor. He seemed a bit preoccupied. The young boy that was following him seemed anxious, or unstable. And not very glad to be here. But he bowed to Mushoh’s will, and accepted registration. Once everything was settled, they both walked away, to which Msyk decided to follow them. He knew that it was very indiscrete of himself, but he needed to know what was up with the newcomer. Upon being noticed by his former mentor, Msyk bowed down.
“Greetings Mushoh. It has been quite some time since we’ve met. Am I interrupting?”
Mushoh was very pleased to see Msyk. “Not at all Msyk. I would like you to meet Ando. I took him under my teachings.”
Msyk observed the young boy very carefully. He was well built, like anyone who followed Mushoh’s training would be. He had a very normal height and stature for his age. His brown hair was kept clean and wore the ordinary grey robes of Mushoh. But what caught Msyk’s attention the most was his green eyes. They were fiery and passionate, and burned with an unexplainable hatred. And his twitching body indicated impatience, he clearly wasn’t the kind to stand still. Something was troubling him deep inside.
“Well hello Ando.” politely said Xandar. He didn’t get any replies outside of an out of place glare, which indicated Msyk that he was better left alone. What Mushoh saw in him went beyond Msyk, but he clearly had something special somewhere to be taken both inside the Xyphuminati people and as a student of Mushoh. Feeling like there wasn’t much to obtain anymore, Msyk and Xandar regained the halls of the Academy. They wondered off for the day, talking to their respective friends. But Msyk couldn’t help himself, he heard all of the rumors about Ando’s mysterious arrival. And he was eager to see him in the first battle royal.
The next day came really fast, and Msyk skipped, like most of the other years, the greeting speech at the reunion hall and headed directly to Maghtere. He wasn’t alone, and most people let him move forward in fear or respect of his now very well renowned fighting skills. Msyk didn’t enjoy such attention, never did and never will. But he couldn’t change five hundred people’s perspective, so he decided long ago to simply ignore it. Once he was inside the hall, Msyk headed towards his as usual spear rack. He never tried any other weapon, for him his spear was all he needed. It provided reach, versatility in fighting style and yet was a swift weapon. Msyk wandered off on his own, leaving Xandar to his preparations. He was hoping that his little brother would reach the top ten this year, at least once. Seeing two Twills on the leaderboard would make him proud. Msyk also learned from that one time that he needed to make sure that the entire school didn’t gang up on him. He had already taken three or four people all at once and won, but not fifty.
Waiting in his little area, Msyk observed a few students scattering around. He even saw a few who ran away as fast as they could when they noticed him, which made Msyk smile. He had a reputation, willingly or not.
Soon afterwards, the battle royal began. Msyk didn’t even waste any efforts at being stylish with his enemies. One foe, one blow, one out. This scheme went on up until the one hundred competitors left was announced. Outplaying the nearest student, Msyk kept moving forward. Upon reaching a new playing field, Msyk saw something unexpected. Ando was still standing, and fighting fiercely, almost in a reckless method. But what troubled Msyk was Ando’s foe: it was Xandar himself, and he was struggling. Ando wasn’t fighting like most students of his age: instead of waiting for an opening, he tried to create himself one by sheer force, aggressively.
Msyk didn’t want to interrupt. He had too much respect for fair fights to jump in like a snake. But he still was worried about his brother, who was quickly losing ground. It took fifteen seconds at most for Ando to finish him off, leaving a sour taste in Msyk’s mouth.
Ando then turned around and saw Msyk. Almost everyone who saw him ran away, not willing to encounter the student that had the most first place in the last century. But Ando didn’t care. He charged straight to Msyk, both swords high in the air.
“Two swords? That’s an interesting idea...”
Before Msyk could fully consider this idea, Ando was onto him. The boy was very agile, making Msyk step left and right with every blow he blocked, just to make sure that he wasn’t in a vulnerable position from any angle. Ando clearly wanted him down. He probably didn’t even care about leaving Msyk still breathing. The newest pupil of Mushoh attacked left and right non-stop, forcing Msyk to stay on the defensive. After easily twenty hits blocked, Msyk used his beloved Umbra Step to go behind Ando. Hoping to get a clean knock out, Msyk swung his spear, only to be stopped mid course by one of Ando’s swords. Not sure what gave his plan, Msyk prompted lighting sparks onto his left hand, expecting his younger rival to swing his sword onto him very soon. Msyk dived in palm first with his left hand onto Ando’s chest, unleashing one of his newest spells, as he saw the other blade coming for him very quickly. But Msyk made his move first, and caught Ando before he could. The Force spell that he just unleashed knocked him away with tremendous force, making him roll several times on the ground. But Ando stood up, to the amazement of the observers. But Msyk knew better. This spell wasn’t to injure, just to shift the tables when he was in a sticky situation.
Msyk decided to go on the offensive this time. As Ando resumed his charge, Msyk aimed at a blow straight to the head. This was a correct idea: Ando was all out on the offense, and it forced him to do an odd parry method with both of his blade crossed, something that he was clearly not used to. Msyk pressed on his offensive advantage, getting closer and closer to a hit with every swing of his spear. Ando clearly had enough after a little moment, and stepped out of Msyk’s range. Both opponents were gazing themselves, while still keeping an eye on their surroundings.
“You’re pretty good. You have an appetite for destruction.”
Ando did not react at all to the compliment. He was perfectly tunnel vision onto his goal: beating anyone and everyone that crossed his path. Exchanging a few swift blows once again, Msyk couldn’t help but admire this young boy. Where he lacked in experience, he had the vigor and the passion of youth. And he wasn’t afraid of using it. After a moment, the announcer told them that there were fifty contestants remaining. Had they really been fighting for that long?
Msyk executed a large jump backwards, creating distance. He had yet to use this technique in a real environment. So it would be a trial by fire. Msyk focused his energy deep inside, and when he felt ready, he began to dash forward, spear raised high. The looks that he saw on Ando’s face gave away his success. He wasn’t sure where to give attention, and Msyk managed to get within range without having Ando in a proper guarding position.
The following attack hit Ando squarely on the head, knocking him on the ground for good. Msyk was panting, a bit tired. But he felt quite satisfied. Nobody’s ever challenged him like this before. He had to give kudos to this kid afterwards, and to Mushoh for doing such a good job. But he needed to tamper his anger, it would one day cost him his life.
There were still some contestants in the run, and Msyk was afraid that they could out do him because of how tired he was. As the competition follow, he managed to pull himself into the final ten. But Msyk was outdone, and finished third for the first battle royal of the year. When viewing the scoreboard, many were wondering what happened exactly and who could have outdone the single one of them who stood as an uncontested champion. Msyk never gave any details, and the mystery remained whole for everyone who didn’t see Ando’s fierce and aggressive sword play.
Msyk waited to see Ando come out of the doorway. He didn’t have to patient too long fortunately, as he quickly noticed those fiery green eyes. Msyk rushed towards him, catching him a bit by surprised. He knew that Ando wouldn’t be the most talkative, so he kept this short.
“We’ll be doing this three times a year. I eagerly await the next time.” Not getting a response, Msyk simply added” You’re too aggressive, you need to wait for overtures. Then you’ll be a perfect fighter.”
Ando frowned at the remark but didn’t say anything. Msyk was beginning to think that he was mute. Feeling like his business around here was over, Msyk went to find his little brother.
The rest of the year passed like the two others. Msyk never crossed Ando’s path. The only moment that he saw them again was at the two other battle royals. The second had very similar results, but Msyk managed to regain his first place record. The second, Ando actually avoided encountering Msyk, and both made it as the final contenders. Their fight however wasn’t as impressive as the one in the first battle royal. Ando was tired, having fought endlessly to make his way to reach the top two. Msyk had on the other hand better stamina due to being twice Ando’s age.
And with this final event done, the senior students were prompted to all meet inside the reunion hall to promote their progress and graduation. Msyk didn’t really pay attentions to the ceremonies and even left early, eager to rejoin his family. He was now a fully fledged member of the Xyphuminaties, and couldn’t wait to see what was in store for him.
To be continued...
Alice - No Affiliation - The Void
Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like an eternity in the darkness enveloped in the whispers. Surely if this kept up she would go mad. Her fingers dug into her skull causing her nails to tear into the flesh. Tears now streamed down her face as she neared her breaking point.
"Mother!", Alice's shout echoed throughout the distance and the whispers subsided. She still knelt on the ground her head pressed between her knees, her entire body trembling for the ordeal she had just endured.
It was many moments before her shaking subsided and she was able to lift her head and open her eyes. What was once an oblivion of unending darkness was now a desert scape of ruined pillars, sand and a single cobbled walk way. Looking behind her, Alice discovered the cobbled walk way did not continue backwards. Where ever this path lead she was either at its beginning or its end. With little choice left in her life she followed the cobbled path to where ever it might take her.
The scape was unchanging for the journey that she had so far completed. To her left and right a barren scape of rolling sand with ruined pillars and other structures of stone scattered about. The whole trip had been miserable. Not only was she alone in an alien place, but shortly after leaving her point of arrival a violent wind had picked up. The loose grains of sand easily took flight under the influence of the wind causing a constant storm of pin pricks as the grains smashed against her.
Soon, she began to wonder if her march would lead her anywhere as it must have been nearly half a day and yet the scape had changed not a bit. Her eyes wandered upward to catch view of the sun to know how much longer she would have light left for her travels. To her astonishment the sky was blue with no sun, no real source of illumination to be beheld. She stopped and spun quickly to scan the sky, but to no avail. As she took a step forward to continue her journey she found herself once again swathed in darkness. Almost immediately, a single voice began to whisper to her. Though unnerved by the return of one of the voices that may have plagued her earlier she ignored it and pushed forward through the darkness. In an attempt to keep her sanity in check as it would have faltered the last time she sung to herself a nursery rhyme her mother sung about her often. However, before she completed the first verse more voices joined the fray in her head. Each a whisper each vying for her attention over the others. It soon became overwhelming and once more she squatted thrusting her head between her knees. Her hands once again clasped over her ears in vain. This assault was far longer than the previous, she found herself almost broken, almost hopeless after it. Indeed, through pure perserverance she had managed to crawl onward despite the maddening whispers. Her hands clumsily felt over the cobbles to keep her on her path. She thought to herself if she could just get away from this place, this horrible desolate hell hole, that she would be fine.
The sunless day returned hours later. She lay flat on her back against the cobbles. Her eyes stared emptily at the sunless sky, dried tears left marks below her eyes. Twisting without thinking she pushed herself from the ground and continued her march. She was devoid of thought, of feeling, of will and yet still she kept moving forward driven by something she no longer knew anymore. Time passed unaccounted as her feet continued. What seemed like an eternity under the sunless sky later, her path ended abruptly at the base of a stair case. She fell to her knees overwhelmed not by the difficulty that stairs would present to her in her drained state, but over joyed that something had changed. With new found determination she scrambled hand and foot up each stair her eyes gazing upward toward its destination that had to be some 400 steps away. Still with her renewed energy she pushed onward and upward not allowing herself to stop lest the shadows bring her terror before she reached her destination.
Atop the stone steps lie a great building. Its facade was black but its features undeniably unique and lavish. Huge columns, beveled ebony columns supported a massive arch of similar color tone. The arch itself contained many cavities that held home to obsidian gargoyles that shone brightly making their horribly predatory appearance easy to see. Behind the pillars lie three sets of gargantuan doors. Not a single one less than 40 feet tall in height. At their mid point enormous golden knockers hung firmly in place. The courtyard before the building was also decorated immensely. A central walk way to the building split two seperate yet symmetrical gardens. Each featuring a fountain, at their center a lewd woman held armament and faced the other as if positioned to strike at any moment. Benches were strewn about the area over fine green grasses and each area was circled by neatly trimmed shrubbery. It suddenly struck Alice that this place could not possibly exist within the middle of the desert she had just traveled from and she spun around to view the desert to clarify where she was. Her mouth slackened and stayed agape as behind her was no longer the stairway descent to the endless sand but a bridge over a moat laid out before a thick forest.
She had gone insane. She had to have. Alice continued to think she was no longer able to discern the truth and that her eyes and mind had failed her. For how else could she have made such a marvelous travel without moving? Her shoulders slumped slightly as she became unsure if she should even continue.
No. Not now. NOT AFTER ALL SHE HAD BEEN THROUGH. This place would not be the end of her she would continue on. She would break whatever madness surrounded her. Once more, she turned 180 degrees and stormed up the pathway, past the ornate columns and was stopped only by the majesty of the giant doors. Her determination faltered as she could not imagine how she could move the giant stone doors by herself for their weight had to have been tremendous. Then like a prayer to the gods being answered the doubled doors of the center doorway parted and allowed her passage into the dark shelter within.
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