Tournament of Champions 5!!!!! (The Game Has Begun!)

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  • A New Technique (happens the morning before the feast)

    For ease of reading continuity, all of Raeza's story segments are collected here.
    Raeza woke early the next morning, rolling out of bed with a dull metallic thud. “Ugh, too many new beds recently,” they grumbled, groaning slightly as they drowsily staggered to their feet.

    Looking out the window, Raeza confirmed it was barely sunrise. Might as well visit the market before it gets crowded. 

    Much to Raeza's dismay, the market was full even at this early hour. How are there so many people here already?!

    An unbidden sigh escaped Raeza, lost in the light morning breeze as they wandered the less popular stalls. They passed by an astounding variety of curious trinkets and more than a few scams. Stopping by a baker, Raeza bought a few loaves of a hard, sour bread they'd never seen before.

    When the market started to grow packed as the day began in earnest, Raeza fled to the training grounds. Raeza skirted around the edge of the area, making their way into the forest to the north.

    Finding a sufficiently secluded glade, Raeza expanded their Photon Array, sending a number of crystals into the surrounding area to serve as alarms if anything drew close. Raeza took out their journal, flipping about halfway through to last night's entries. Now then, let's see what this 'electromagnetism' can do…

    ~~~ (A few hours later)

    Raeza stood before a small orb of light, the grass around them seared in small patches. After a few seconds, a low buzzing could be heard, but quickly faded away.
    The induction is taking too much conscious effort. If the target evades toward me, there might not be enough time to execute sufficient countermeasures— Wait, why am I getting so worked up about this? Combat is a chore, and that's all there is to this tournament. There's not even a semblance of a decent prize at the end! Perhaps I should throw the first match so I can be done with this? Then I could return to exploring more useful applications of—

    The faces of the headmaster and a number of other students Raeza was acquainted with came to mind; derailing the sudden negative spiral. The headmaster would almost certainly cry if I came back so soon, and I'd never hear the end of it from the others; some of them might have even come to watch.

    Raeza sighed. Halfhearted as it may be, I suppose I'll have to put some proper effort toward winning this nonsense. Perhaps I'll gain access to restricted information if I perform well. Not that it should be that difficult… no, better to overestimate than underestimate; it minimizes both unforeseen circumstances and disappointment. Let's continue

    A shrill keening tone rang out through the area. Something triggered the array; this experiment will have to wait. At least I've reached a level where electromagnetism should be usable during the upcoming match.

    Raeza called their crystals back and returned to the training grounds proper, making sure to give the presence that triggered the alarm a wide berth. It wouldn't hurt to watch the others train if the chance presented itself. On the way back, Raeza munched idly on the sour bread and some dried fruit. Ooh, this is great! I'll have to go back for more tomorrow.
    Raeza's character sheet has been updated to reflect their experimental technique.
  • edited February 22

    Chapter Six - The First Match

    “We’re getting close,” the king whispered. He held a magical lantern to the ground, tracing golden footsteps down a narrow, windy path.

    “Nyrine is down there? Are you sure?”

    “It’s the best chance we got.”

    The duo descended down the pathway into thick fog. Soon, after ten minutes, they could barely even see each other.

    “I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this…”

    —-----

    Meanwhile, in the city arena:

    It was ten minutes before dawn and the sky was still an obsidian black. There was an unusual frigid wind sweeping throughout the area, making the nighttime feel even more spooky. In the center of the stadium, there was a vast expanse of rundown buildings and cracked roads–all which hadn’t been used for ages. On the north edge of the arena, Aki, Rehela, and Byrre sat calmly as they watched over the battlefield.

    Despite the bad weather, spectators from all across the Rosakel empire filled the seats of the city arena to the brink: Warriors, mages, priests, and even children sat in anticipation of the grand opening. Many of the more unruly people could be seen placing bets on the winner of the first match too. The nervous chattering quickly died out as Aki stood up.

    “Welcome to the Tournament of Champions!!!” Aki announced into his enhanced microphone. There was a loud cheer from the audience. “Today marks the start of what will be the greatest tournament in the history of this plane! We’ve gathered the strongest competitors from all across the plane, and some from even other worlds themselves! I am your MAIN judge, Aki!”

    “Boy, he sure does like to talk,” Rehela whispered to Byrre. Byrre chuckled.

    “Next to me, on my right, is Byrre and to my left is Rehela.” Aki paused for cheers again, looking slightly offended that this cheer was louder than the ones for him. “Rehela is one of the most capable healers of this plane, and she has cast multiple spells allowing her to heal any injures and even revive some inside our tournament stadiums, so please, remember, contestants, to keep all fighting limited within the stadium for your safety. Now, I shall not make you wait any longer.”

    Aki gestured to one side of the stadium on top of a rundown building.

    “Here, we have Miyan Yunyue, a monk who practices the art of Miaodao and holder of the forsaken blade, Nake Tsuki.”

    There was a loud cheer for Miyan. Then, Aki shifted the audience’s attention to a figure standing on a building on the opposite side of the stadium.

    “And this is Roshk, a viashino from the Kepeshkamolik tribe. Though his race might be near extinct here on Avelaide, he is a feared bounty hunter, so be careful!”

    There was a slightly louder cheer for Roshk.

    “Let the first match of the tournament begin!”


    ------------------------------

    @Usaername and @WarriorCatInAhat

    at this point, I will not consider anything else posted for your characters! Stay tuned for the end of this fight, which will be posted in around an hour, maybe less if I'm efficient.

  • edited February 22
    sorry to interrupt, I just got done with another segment and figured I should probably put it out before the first match

    Also, Training Grounds has been updated slightly, so if it seems like there is some repeated information that's why.

    Story Segment 3 - Feast of Champions

    (After Training Grounds)

    A few hours after the contestants were informed of the feast, all of them found themselves gathered outside Rosakel Castle for the tour and subsequent dinner. As the group was led inside, Navor was hit with a wave of overwhelming memory. The resemblance to Castle Persill, the headquarters of the Order of Manifestation, was uncanny. Perhaps his mind was just playing tricks on him, or maybe they were both the work of the same far-traveling architect. Either way, being in a place like this unsettled him. Navor's attempts to focus on something other than the resemblance, and the accompanying memories, was not exactly helped by Prince Aki's commentary on the fine details of the Rokasel Empire's lumber industry or whatever other pointless fact he was on about now. 

    The prince seems... ill-prepared for leadership at best. At the very least, he doesn't make for a particularly interesting tour guide. I could be wrong, but this empire better pray that the king and queen don't take a more permanent leave anytime soon.

    After what seemed like hours, the group finally had wound their way through the entire castle to the dining room. The room was extravagantly decorated, and each contestant had an assigned place at the table. On the table was an enormous selection of exotic dishes. Navor took his seat, and tried not to think of the last time had sat at a banquet table such as this. 

    In order to keep his mind off the past, Navor went to the food. The Order, while affluent in their own right, were never much for exotic tastes. Hence, while Navor had certainly been to feasts before, most of the food before him was entirely foreign. After leaving the Order, he had taken an interest in foods from far-flung lands, so the mountain of diverse cuisine in front of him served as an excellent distractor from his thoughts. 

    While eating, Navor had also been paying close attention to the other contestants. In doing so, he noticed that seated directly across from him was an odd-looking woman, with a long, precise blade at her side. Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but Navor could swear that half her face was a lighter color than the other. Neither said a word, but Navor could see that her eyes were flitting around the room, observing each contestant in turn and absorbing as much information as possible. She seemed to be the type to want to know as much as she can about an opponent before engaging in combat. On that, we are the same. Navor thought, as he continued to survey the others. However, his observation was interrupted when he heard a loud bell chime. Turning towards the source of the sound, Navor saw the man called Byrre standing near the front of the room with a scroll. Two by two, he paired off contestants, and it only took Navor a few matchups to recognize the pattern. Each contestant was seated across from their first-round opponent. This meant he was up against the strange woman on the other side of the table. Ogze, she had been called. Now that the pairings had been announced, Navor could see Ogze was lazer-focused on him, likely trying to glean his strengths and weaknesses as best she could in a situation as non-combative as this.

    Most of the table sat in silence, until eventually the quiet was broken by the young man who had simply been referred to as the Squire attempting to strike up a conversation with his opponent. Before he could get through his introduction, though, a ghostly apparition of a full-fledged knight appeared in front of him.

    Navor almost had a heart attack. What the hell? How did they find me? The Order is supposed to be continents away, there's no way they'd be able to show up so quickly! The list of contestants was only publicized a few days ago! And to send a kid as well... They must have some talented new "recruits". I sure as hell couldn't make a manifestation that defined at his age.

    Navor tried his best to cover up his look of shock and outrage at the manifestation's appearance, but he quickly realized that he may have the wrong idea. For one thing, the kid's soul was talking. Manifestations were many things, but conversationalists they were not. In addition, the squire seemed to have little to no control over the spirit. Navor breathed a sigh of relief. If the Order even paid attention to events such as this, they had not sent anyone after him yet.
  • (Feast of Champions, Cont.)

    Across the table, Navor noticed that Ogze had not taken her eyes off him. She had obviously witnessed his extreme reaction to the spirit, and was now had a more interested look on her face, as though she was trying to decipher the meaning of his shock. 

    Figuring that it couldn't hurt to gather a bit of information about his opponent, Navor turned to Ogze, and said, "I see we're paired against each other in the first round. You probably heard when the matchups were announced, but I'm Navor."

    "Ogze." Ogze said, in a raspy, barely audible whisper. It seemed that she was not particularly eager to partake in conversation, and although Navor often shared that disposition, he decided to press on.

    "I noticed you have quite an interesting sword. The blade looks too thin for heavy combat." Navor said. Perhaps he could discover a bit of her background, figure out an expectation for the style she may be using.

    "It is indeed... specialized. The product of years adapting to whatever need arises." Ogze waited a moment, before saying, "How about you? You carry a blade as well, so you must have talent with it as well."

    "Well, I used to be a knight. Formal training may not always be the most exciting, but it certainly prepares one for battle."

    Ogze nodded, as she picked up a piece of food with one hand and brought it to her mouth. The two sat in silence for a moment, each waiting for the other to make the next comment.

    As both sat there eating, Navor slowly realized that Ogze's breathing had changed. It was barely noticeable with the noise of the other contestants, but nonetheless he could tell that her breath matched pace with his. Strange. I've heard of this as a practice to conceal sound, but I can't see why that's necessary in a place like this. Perhaps it's just automatic for her. She must do a lot of sneaking around.

    As he noticed Ogze's strange breathing, Navor noticed something else quite peculiar, something that he had never seen before. Navor had never been the best at reading specific emotions by looking at a soul, but the strangeness of her soul was too obvious for any self-respecting knight of the Order to miss. 

    Or, should I say, the strangeness of her soulsI'm not sure how, but where one soul should exist, there is instead two. And yet, somehow still one. Almost as if stitched together. Curious. I must find out more about this, without revealing too much about my abilities. As long as I don't mention the other... skills that come with my knighthood, I can keep my element of surprise. I doubt she's heard of the Order of Manifestation. 

    "Speaking of my knighthood, the order I belonged to paid special attention to the soul. We believed it to be the truest representation of oneself. However, I couldn't help but notice that you seem to have two of them."

    Ogze visibly tensed. Navor could tell that he had struck something that she would rather not talk about. "How did...? I mean, I don't... er, didn't..." She shook her head dismissively and studied her plate.

    Navor put his hands up in resignation. "Alright, I won't pry. Just making an observation. I get that one's past can be a closely guarded thing."

    She furrowed her brow, and took a heavy breath before responding. "It's a complicated matter, my past. I'd rather not discuss it."

    Navor chuckled. "I see. A complicated past makes for a complicated present. God knows I've got some complex elements to mine."

    Ogze glanced over to the boisterous ghost, seemingly named Cedric, before bringing her eyes back to Navor. "Does it have something to do with him?"

    "No, he just... reminded me of someone. Someone I'd rather not cross paths with again."

    "An old enemy?"

    "And an old friend. Doesn't really matter what they were then, though. I just don't want to run into them now."

    Ogze didn't pry further, and the two contestants finished their meals mostly in silence. The conversation was over, and neither seemed particularly eager to start it back up again.

    That night, Navor was awoken by loud noises coming from the room to the right of his. It sounded like his neighbor, Hareel, if he remembered correctly, was banging a weapon on something. I could go over there and tell him to shut up, but I'd rather sleep than get caught up in a midnight conflict. Also, I think I just heard whatever he was banging on shatter, so hopefully he's done with his outburst. 

    Just when Navor had returned to sleep, he was awoken again by the sounds of footsteps on the roof. They were coming from the direction of the room to the left of his, so he assumed it was either Ushri or Meka. What either would be doing on the roof in the middle of the night, Navor didn't know. He soon got his answer, though, as he heard Ushri's voice ring out from the rooftop. "Hey Avelaide! Listen up! I don't know if anyone's ever won one of these things without killing anyone, but just you watch!" This was followed by a laugh, and then, another shout of, "No one dies this time! NO ONE!" Navor sighed, turning in his bed. Look, I get you don't want to kill anyone. Just please, for the love of god, don't make your moral crusade a crusade on my sleep schedule as well.

    Of all the neighbors to be stuck by in this god-forsaken housing complex, why did I have to get the loud ones?
  • @Aggroman15 ; Navor sounds like my spirit animal
  • edited February 22

    The First Match (End) - Part 1

     VS  


    “Let the first match of the tournament begin!”

    Right as the match began, the golden sun started to push through the horizon behind Roshk. Miyan stared at the golden ball as it spread its glorious light throughout the nighttime sky.

    How beautiful, a new beginning.

    Roshk initiated the attack first. The viashino leapt from rooftop to rooftop, scimitar in hand, poised to strike down his opponent. Miyan, however, waited. He watched carefully how the viashino moved. Leap after leap. Step after step.

    Impressive. This viashino will be more difficult to defeat than expected.

    Just as Roshk got close, Miyan jumped off the rooftop onto the empty street. The crowd booed.

    Just you wait. The fight hasn’t even started yet.

    Roshk copied the monk and landed with a thud on a street one block away. Miyan quickly ran into the nearest building. There were odd portraits lined along the chipped walls. To the right of the room, there was a flight of stairs.

    This will be our fighting ground now.

    “Wherever you’re hiding, I will find you!” Roshk taunted, “Might as well end it now before I find and kill you.” The viashino turned the corner, entering the street Miyan was once on, strolling leisurely.

    Miyan raced up the stairs to check the second floor. There was a clothesline connecting to the next house out the rightmost room.

    Good. If I need that. I can use it. If I can control our battlefield, I can win the match.

    Miyan moved pieces of furniture and finally found a small core near where he could hide to ambush the bounty hunter. Finally, after a few minutes, the viashino entered the small building.

    “I know you’re in here Miyan,” he teased.

    Stay silent. Stay calm! Just wait for the right mo-

    With unfortunate timing, Miyan sneezed. The viashino spun around and grabbed a knife from his belt. With impressive speed, he threw it at the noise. Miyan yelped as the knife embedded itself into the wall right above his head.

    “How unfortunate.”

    Roshk advanced on the scared monk.

    C’mon! Now’s not the time. I’m counting on you, Naku Tsuki.

    Miyan leapt up and lashed out with his special blade. The viashino easily blocked it with his scimitar. Their blades clashed a few more times in the air before Miyan whirled around Roshk and attacked again from another angle. The sound of steel overwhelmed Miyan’s ears as he dared to press the bounty hunter back into a wall.

    “Not this time, little boy,” the viashino smirked.

    With one hand holding his sword, he used the other to lash out at Miyan with his claws, scratching the monk’s face badly. The monk pulled away and sprinted for the stairs. Roshk followed quickly.

    At the top of the stairs, Miyan spun around gracefully, then grounded himself and jabbed at the viashino that was still running towards Miyan. Roshk, caught by surprise, threw himself to the wall, where Naku Tski skimmed his back. Roshk winced in pain, but somehow managed to push himself off the wall and ready for another attack.

    Miyan, still on the top step, lashed out again at the viashino with another powerful jab. Roshk quickly parried the blade and stepped backwards to balance himself. Miyan stepped down and attacked again, but this time Roshk was ready. He firmly blocked Naku Tsuki with his scimitar over his head and with the space created underneath, he threw three knives at Miyan.

    Spinning, they cut through the air like throwing stars as they sped towards Miyan.

    I got this.

    Miyan jumped back, allowing two of the knives to cleave through the rotten wooden stairs. However, the third one found its mark on Miyan’s thigh.

    “Arrrgh!” Miyan screamed.

    “Finally the monk says something,” Roshk laughed.

    Miyan sheathed the katana, then turned and hobbled over to the back room. Roshk took a moment to gather himself, then continued forward to pursue Miyan. Slammed the door shut behind him as he entered the room.

    This should buy me just enough time.

    Miyan grabbed the clothesline from the window and swung across it like a child would on monkey bars. For a moment, the simple feeling overcame Miyan before he was pulled back into reality. Miyan jumped into the building across from him and slashed the line as Roshk approached the window. Miyan ran across the hall of this house, his demeanor becoming more frantic as he searched all the rooms.

    The stairs were barricaded and every window seemed to be locked. Miyan heard a thud as Roshk jumped into the building Miyan was in. Miyan started to breathe more heavily. He tried the window. The lock was jammed and rusted over.

    No…no..no…

    “Miyan, it’s over,” Roshk grinned as he slowly opened the rotting door. He was a little less than two meters away from Miyan now. “Surrender if you want to live.”

    Miyan gritted his teeth through his pain. “Never…I…will…kill…you…”

    “How cute.”

    Roshk raised his scimitar for a grand finish.

    Now!

  • edited February 22

    The First Match (End) - Part 2

    Miyan unsheathed Naku Tsuki once more and forced Roshk to back away and dodge an attack. In one swift motion he slammed its hilt into the window with all the remaining for he could muster. The window shattered and Miyan scrambled out. The monk, using his residue upper body strength, started to scale the building, using window ledges and bricks sticking out to push himself higher and higher.

    One at a time. Left. Right. Left. Right.

    Roshk looked out the window. It took him a moment to realize where Miyan had gone. With haste, the smaller viashino started to follow. After a minute of intense climbing, Miyan had willed himself to the top. Roshk wasn’t very far behind.

    Upon seeing Miyan on top of the building, the crowd cheered.

    “Come up here and you die!” Miyan yelled, out of breath.

    “Awww, that’s cute,” the viashino laughed. Roshk pushed himself up and drew his scimitar again. “Show me how strong you are. We finish this on this building. Here. Now.”

    Miyan dug his feet into the ground. One of them was going to die today. Roshk charge at the teenager, allowing his scimitar to attack the monk from all angles. Miyan’s mind could barely keep up with the repeat blows and parries. The more Roshk attacked, the farther back Miyan was pushed to the other edge of the building.

    The audience’s cheers grew louder and fiercer as the blades moved faster and faster. The flashes of silver in the air were now near invisible to the naked eye. All Miyan could use to keep track of Roshk's blade was the whistling of the air as the sword cleaved through it.

    Just keep moving. Don’t give him an opening.

    Finally their blades met and stopped. Both Miyan and Roshk were pressing as hard as they could. Miyan’s foot was now a few inches from the edge and an unpurposeful fall could be fatal with all the other injuries Miyan had sustained. The monk could feel his grip weakening. Little by little, Roshk pushed the blades closer and closer to Miyan, twisting the monk’s wrist father and father back as he fought to stop the scimitar from slicing his torso.

    Suddenly, in the early morning light, a purple constellation flashed in the sky. Naku Tsuki started to glow the same light and Miyan twisted Roshk’s scimitar out of his hands. Roshk backed up increasing the distance between him and Miyan to keep the monk out of range. The viashino laughed at the spectacle of blood unfolding in front of him as he took out seven more throwing knives.

    Blood was now dripping down Miyan’s leg as the pain increased exponentially.

    “Oh Miyan, I don’t need my sword to win…”

    Roshk raised his hand up with a knife. His aim was impeccable as he’d proved earlier.

    Miyan looked down at his leg, realizing that the knife Roshk threw was still stuck in his thigh.

    What if…

    “This is your last chance to surrender, Miyan.”

    “Never!” Miyan ripped the knife out of his thigh, causing him to scream. The monk threw the knife through the air at an impressive speed. It hit its target perfectly. The viashino grunted in surprise as the knife found its place in his stomach. The viashino took a few steps backwards and fell off the edge of the building onto the road. 

    The audience gasped again.

    Miyan smiled a little bit, but then paused to look down at his own wounds. Blood was pouring out his leg onto the building. Miyan tried to stop it with his hand, but all that did was drench his hands in deep red blood. Miyan felt dizzy.

    The monk hobbled over to the center of the rooftop and collapsed face forward. Miyan looked at his blade lying beside him.

    “Thank you,” he whispered to his blade. He looked up at the purple constellation, which was now almost faded. It had the shape of a girl holding a blade like his.

    How odd...

    Then his vision became fuzzy and everything became black for Miyan.

    The audience was silent. Both contestants lay unconscious or dead in deep pools of blood. Who could possibly be the victor?

  • The First Match - Winner!!!!


    Card design slightly favored Miyan in this fight. Though it seemed like Roshk had more story and reaction to events, Miyan was easier to connect with as a character, which is what gave him the victory for me.

    @Usaername Congrats on winning the first match! You may now upgrade your champion to a card with max CMC5 or create a new signature card!

    @WarriorCatInAHat You did a great job developing Roshk in this tournament, however one character must lose, and unfortunately it had to be Roshk. Feel free to post any remainder story/card you have because we'd all love to see it. Congrats on a great run in Tournament of Champions 5!

    "I can't watch..." Aki cried while holding his hands over his face, "Is it over?"

    "Yes. Roshk died and Miyan is unconscious, but Rehela can heal them both becasue of the enchantments she put over this stadium" Byrre reassured the prince. 

    He turned to Rehela, "Would you please heal Roshk and Miyan for us?"

    "With pleasure," she smiled and walked off.

    Still shaken, Aki stood up. "C-congrats to our winner!"

    The crowd cheered cautiously.

    "The next match between Raeza and Ushri and Meka will take place this evening at the cliffs stadium!"

    -------------------------

    @East2West and @cadstar369

    Your match will be held in a few hours! Please post any story parts you need before I start the match :)

    Good luck to both of you!

  • edited February 22
    Nimbu was a person of the people, as such she cared not of what people she sat amongst, opting to sit among the crowds as a pose to the siting in the sits reserved for the champions. The citizens had come to grow fond of her docile undead in the years of her healing them and warding of the unnatural, as such they all gathered around her without fear.

    People old, and young; knight and thief, gathered around her as she offered minor healing to those with scars, walking impediments, and various other alliements in the few minutes before the match started. All though it pained her, they were those she couldn't help...well not couldn't, rather wouldn't. Even though she adapted the perverse art of necromancy. She still held to her dogma of abiding by the rules of life and death. The old must have their time eventually.

    Soon the match started and everyone got into their spots. Some of Nimbu's zombies helped lift the young up for a more profound view of the better half of what they could see in the match, as Roshik and Miyan clashed, then disappeared within the buildings for a good half, then clashed again in the roof top.

    Had this been a battle of strength, Roshik surely would have won. Nimbu saw both contestants deal critical blows to each other, and as per her obligation, she felt obligated to go help. Before she could get up and go help. The host and healer arrived and offered healing services to them. She new that in order for a cleric's power to work the patron either had to be alive, or the user had to have a part of the patron within them. Whoever this Friyena is, she was not dead.

    Calmly getting up, she offered final healing to those left that needed it while her zombies calmly placed the children down, before beginning to make her way back to her confines to continue her studies of clericisim and necromancy. Before she could leave, a young girl about the age of five, approached her and asked

    "Could I get that drawing that makes people become your guards. I would like to help people too once I die, just like those guys, and especially just like you"

    Nimbu patted her gently before responding, "You are very brave, but I think we should wait on that decision until you are older. Who knows, you might just be my next prodigy."

    With that Nimbu left as the child ran back excitedly to her mom. Perhaps, there was a chance that hope could be restored after all, even if it wasn't in her plane.
  • I never catch typing mistakes before the edit no matter how hard I try. Now I had to perform an edit for a single word 😢
  • edited February 22
    Spectating ~ Miyan vs. Roshk

    Did it have to be so early? Raeza grumbled internally as they found a spot in the participants' seating for the first match. Didn't even have time to get more sour bread.

    As the match began, Raeza was mildly impressed by Roshk's agility, but that quickly succumbed to horror-tinged disgust at how much blood was spilled by both parties as the battle progressed. Even if you both use blades, this is a tournament! What good does it do to kill each other over something like this?!

    Raeza could hardly bear to watch as both combatants were left on either side of death's door, only to be fully restored by Rehela. How barbaric. Am I to understand that I'm surrounded by fools that know naught but slaughter, and one of them will be crowned a champion by these bloodthirsty spectators?

    Raeza sighed. So be it. I need not sink to their level. I shall show them a proper battle of wits, and my victory will not be drenched in blood.

    Raeza left the arena as soon as the details of their match were announced. I must confirm the state of the cliff arena and begin planning some stratagems… And get some of that bread along the way.


    *Note: Raeza slept through Ushri's declaration.

  • (About an hour after Kumo has left from dinner. Special thanks to @DrakeGladis for co-writing this section with me. They deserve as much credit for this section as I do.)

    Following the dinner Oritira could be seen around the lake just outside the contestants’ housing. She was wet, having taken a dip in the water to clean herself, and was currently messing about the area, making sure nothing had been too disturbed. The evening was pleasantly warm, and a gorgeous sky of midnight purples and dark blacks was illuminated by stars above. The druid hadn’t brought her snakes with her, having released them back into the wild. If they needed her, the would come back.

    Kumo, for his part, had actually been visiting the lake for a similar reason to Oritira. At this point, it had been over ten days since he had arrived at the tournament grounds and he hadn’t bathed in weeks prior to that. As a knight, or at least someone who was trained by knights, he was expected to maintain a more dignified appearance, and thus a bath was in order.

    When he arrived at the lake, he was surprised to see someone else there, the lady with the snakes—though the snakes didn’t appear to currently be present—Oritira, if he remembered correctly. Paying her little mind at the moment, he carefully removed his collar, using his paws and a few head motions to slide it off. He had left his armor and even his prized sword back in the room; he didn’t expect he would be needing either this early in the day anyway. He then carefully made his way into the lake until he had gotten in deep enough to swim, then paddled out a little ways.

    However, he was surprised to hear the sound of amused laughter across the lake coming from the woman. "I have soap if you'd like,” she offered casually.

    Kumo looked the way of the Druid curiously. He had hardly used soap before, at least on his own. He didn’t exactly have the dexterity to do so. Regardless, he made his way back over to the shore where she was, looking up at her inquisitively.

    "It's a bar soap, but if you don't mind I can work up a lather for you and help you get really clean,” Oritira followed up, pulling the bar from a pack she had brought with her. It smelled fresh, almost minty, but with just a hint of wood ash too, quite pleasant to the both of them. "If it were liquid it would be a bit easier to apply, but then I couldn't carry it on it's own."

    Kumo was a bit surprised by the offer, but trusted the lady enough, and thus lowered his head respectfully to allow her to get to work. He hadn’t been bathed by somebody else since he set off for the tournament. His order had cleaned him up just before he left. Honestly, the experience made him just a little emotional because of the association, though he tried to keep that from coming through in his demeanor. He didn’t want the lady to think he was upset with her at all.

  • Thank you,” he said somewhat quietly, mostly because he expected it to sound like a soft bark and a small murr of approval to the lady.

    Oritira lathered up the soap for a moment, setting it down on a stone and working what she had lathered up into his fur slowly but thoroughly. It was clear she knew what she was doing, pausing only to renew the lather. Kumo could feel the strength in her fairly thin arms, and noted she seemed to be enjoying this. It seemed to be a slow process given the bar wasn’t the most efficient method.

    "It's no problem; I'm happy to help. Gives me something to do. I'm not going to be able to do much besides practice here apparently,” Oritira mused in turn, immediately grabbing Kumo’s attention.

    He tensed up in surprise, not in any hostile manner but just from the shock of it. He then looked up, staring her in the eyes. There was no way she had understood him, right? No, no, that had to have just been some sort of lucky guess. Still…

    Have you tried taking a walk in the market district? They have plenty of curios and attractions there if you’re looking for distraction from the completion,” he posed in turn. 

    To Oritira, his voice seemed to have a similar confidence and intonation to Syr Cedric. As for Kumo, he was fully expecting an off-the-mark reply. This was a very specific query and it was unlikely she had any clue what he was barking and whimpering about unless she actually could understand him.

    "I did, the day before they announced who had been selected. There were some interesting things there, but nothing I'd pay money for, and the vendors aren’t interested in gawkers who definitely won't buy," she replied, chuckling lightly as she shampooed the dog’s tail. "I figured you were a bit more aware than your wilder cousins, but wasn't sure you were sentient enough to pose questions like that."

    This in turn caused Kumo to be completely shocked. He ignored her statements for the moment, asking a more or less rhetorical direct question, “You can understand me?

    "Yes I can. I assume you weren't expecting that?" the druid giggled in turn, sounding amused by this.

    No, I—“ Kumo was quite speechless, trying to think of something to say. He had really only ever witnessed conversations; he had never been a part of one himself. The best he could really do was try to answer her question, “I’ve never met somebody with that sort of power before.

    "Well it's a bit of magic, but there's also the practical bits. I wouldn't need the magic to know when you said thank you; that's something that you can see often enough when you help someone out,” she explained. “So, why did you decide to partake in the tournament?"

    I’m here to bring Friyena home,” he replied simply. “The kindness she inspired helped me long ago, and it is my duty to follow through and serve her in turn by competing here.

    What about you? Why are you here?” he then questioned back.

    "I'm here for a myriad of reasons. I do want to see Friyena back, and it would be an honor to serve her. However, I'm also here because even if the priests are wrong and it doesn't work, being here will grant me a platform. Not to mention the prize at the end of this.

    "The natural world is being shrunk. Civilization razes forests, fields of wheat replace hills of flowers. Small animals are despised by the farmers whose home they've built on, and are viewed as pests. Larger animals, those who would fight for their homes such as bears and wolves are killed, just for trying to survive. The largest predators—drakes, basilisks, and their kin—get intentionally hunted or claimed as a menace when they're forced to try and feed off of the lands that the humans, elves, or dwarves have taken as their own.

    “There's precious little land left, and it's being more crowded by the creatures that flee from the terrors of civilization.  Plenty of species are close to being wiped out from these islands, and there's not a single recourse for them but to wait for the bitter end."

    By the end of that Oritira was crying, tears silently streaking down her face. Kumo frowned, not wanting to see the woman in such a state. He felt bad for her, especially given the way she saw what was happening to something she cared about.

    "Well, what do you intend to do about it?" he posed simply in turn. "I mean, if you won the tournament and were allowed any wish or platform you wanted, what would you do with that opportunity?"

    "The hope is that I win. If I do, I can ask for some sort of... protectorate. Seal off half the islands from humans, move the civilization there out to somewhere else; the mainland shouldn't have as many issues with crowding and extinction. Let the natural have its place."

  • Hearing this, Kumo took a moment to think. "Do you think the people living on these islands would be comfortable with upending their lives and moving away from their family homes, jobs, and lifestyles at an instant's notice?"

    "No, but it is for both their own good, in that they won't be in the way of the animals, and it's not like the animals can do the same."

    "I fear you'll incite resentment," the dog advised. "I think there are better ways to go about solving those issues than just ousting civilized races from their homes. Besides, you act as if humans are heartless. Surely there are others out there with similar views to yours."

    "Yes... but what else is there?  Practically speaking, we cannot move nature."

    "There's nothing to say we can't,” Kumo disputed. "Do people not put plants in pots, or bring trees in to decorate their city streets? What's to say that can't be done on a larger scale?"

    "Is that a practical solution, though? It would cost more and presumably have deaths. Plus, how do you expect anyone to ship a basilisk? That’s not even mentioning the difficulty an animal would have trying to live in such a different environment. Sapient races are far more adept at that sort of thing. That would also strip the islands of nature, something that would hurt my very core to see.” Oritira’s face shifted as she considered all this. “What I’m proposing is what I see as a compromise: civilization in balance with nature. The wilds get one half of the islands, and the civilized races get the other half."

    "I feel like there has to be a way to balance the two in the same environment," Kumo remarked in turn. "As an alternative if you don't think that's feasible, though, what if you worked with the empire to create a park system of some sort? Areas dedicated to being preserved for nature with legal protections that decree they cannot and will not be built upon? In that way, not only do you help preserve land for the animals you care about, but you open up opportunities for civilized races to learn about these creatures and see them in their natural habitat. Plus, it would be tremendous for the empire's public image."

    Oritira remained silent for a while, carefully making sure Kumo was lathered all over in soap.  She seemed deep in thought considering Kumo’s words.

    "Thats.... a step in the right direction,” she conceded, “but that doesn't solve the big issues. It leaves places for small animals provisionally, but humans wouldn't be safe wandering in a park filled with any of the more predatory animal species.  I mean, imagine: a kid tugs on a wolf's tail as part of a dare, it snaps at her, she hits it. The next thing you know, people are up in arms that a wolf mauled a child—and don't get me started on apex predators such as drakes. While majestic, they need to feed, and a human in their territory is as viable a snack as any other.  Having them in such an area would be a disaster.

    “You can't try to make civilization and nature mix on a large scale; your plan only works for animals that are too tiny for humans to fear and animals that can be domesticated. I truly believe that my solution is the best we have for now. I'm not opposed to finding something that is more reasonable to the civilized races out there, but I'm fighting for the survival of all the creatures out there, and I want my solution to undoubtedly benefit them."

    Kumo considered Oritira's words. She did have a point, one that made him think hard for a good while, enough that his tail wasn't even wagging, despite how much he was enjoying the druid cleaning him up. "Before I answer, I have to know: What's it like, talking to other creatures? Are they like me? I can only really understand common languages of this world and other dogs."

    "It's... different. They don't seem to have your level of clarity or intent. They're not ‘sentient,’ as it were. They have desires, they do talk, but it's very focused on ‘me,’ ‘you,’ ‘it.’ If you were to ask them the time, they'd not know what you mean. Though, I'm sure that it's like that for you too if you talk with other dogs."

    She then shrugged. "I've never met a dog like you before. I have met a drake that was aware of itself, but it was later killed...." Kumo saw her let out more tears, faint ones.  He assumed the drake was a friend or companion to her.

    Kumo nodded after hearing this. "Admittedly, I don't know what makes me different from other dogs," he spoke. "Ever since I arrived at this competition, it's been strange, honestly. Most everyone I've met here has been regarding me as if I'm an actual person, and not just some dog. They gave me my own room, I was offered an actual seat at the table during the banquet, and now you're actually talking to me, talking like I'm someone that can be talked to."

    Kumo teared up a little at the emotional weight of this. "I... I used to be a lot like the other animals you spoke about, especially when I was a puppy. I... I guess I started to change when I was found by the knights of Friyena. I'm not saying they had any sort of powers or did something to me, but being with them and learning from them, and learning with them, it... made me see the world differently, I suppose.

    "Look, I'm not saying this could be the case for all animals, but maybe there's more to the civilized races than just mindlessly expanding with no regard to the places they go. Maybe there are some out there that do understand, and want to help. I think just pushing them out of a region will only make things worse. It might behoove you to go out and find those that think similarly to you do, see what they have to say, and what they think should be done."

    "I've not found another druid, and it's not for a lack of trying,” Oritira replied with a sigh. “I'm also not saying your case can't be replicated. I am saying that until I find a truly better way, this is what I'm going for. Once we have done something to stop the worst from happening, then we can see if there's actually more out there. But if I took the time to find people, and I passed up this opportunity, and did everything ideally, there'd be nothing left to save."

    She noticed Kumo crying and let a small smile slip through her lips. "Look at the both of us, a flood of tears on a beautiful night like this." She wiped the last of her tears dry. "You're soaped up now. I'd start to wash; you don't want it to dry or it'll get itchy, and trust me. The soap, while made from fat, does not taste good.”

    Kumo did just that, paddling himself out and diving in, swimming around for a couple minutes. Honestly, the druid could tell the dog was frolicking and enjoying himself, even if she got the sense he was trying to act more dignified than that. After that, he returned to shore, instinctively shaking himself off and accidentally soaking the druid in the process. 

    The druid merely cracked a simple smile in turn, something the world hadn’t seen outside the privacy of a forest for decades. Kumo couldn’t help but smile and wag his tail in turn. Seeing her happy filled him with a simple and pure joy he had scarcely experienced since leaving his order. Being able to make people happy like this was what he lived for, what inspired him to push forward, and was part of the reason he had come out all this way in the first place.

    "Well, I very much appreciate the conversation," Kumo said, bowing humbly. “I’ve never quite experienced something like this before.

    “Well, if you would find it convenient to have me help translate things for you I'll gladly do so,” the druid offered in turn.

  • "If I have the need, I'll come to you," Kumo replied warmly. He then nodded one last time to the druid and headed off back toward the quarters, crawling up into his bed and snuggling himself around his cherished Pegasus plushie.
  • (Featuring @DrakeGladis and @Arceus8523

    Kumo had fallen asleep a couple hours ago, but the shouting was enough to start him awake, and the sound of a sword stabbing into the roof was enough to make him skid up to his window in surprise. The whole thing sounded like it had come from the roof so he peered in that direction, surprised to see Ushri, of all people, up there.


    Seeing movement Ushri in turn looked down toward the window Her eyes meet Kumo and for a moment all is silent


    "..."


    "H-hey little guy. Did you hear all that?" she asked, a distinct sheepishness in her voice.


    Kumo continued to stare at Ushri. How could he not hear that? How could anyone within a mile of this place have not heard that?


    Kumo was naturally a little worried. He wasn't sure if she was angry or happy or upset or what, not to mention that Kumo wasn't sure Ushir was exactly the “stable” type, at least given what he knew of her history. However, he couldn't exactly say much, so he just continued to stare at her in bewilderment and see where this went.


    Ushri stared back at the dog. His fluff shifting in the wind. She'd been stressed lately, and well, she needed this. "Oh come here!"


    Reaching down Ushri, careful as she could be, gripped the pup and yoinked him from the window and into a swift full-body hug, tumbling back onto the roof as she did. Kumo let out a surprised yelp when he was suddenly hoisted from the window. Of all the things he had expected the mercenary to do, that was certainly not one of them.


    "By the gods, you are soft!" the mercenary exclaimed gleefully.


    Kumo squirmed a bit in the hug at first, but after a few seconds came to relax into it, actually starting to enjoy it quite a bit, signified by his tail beginning to wag. This continued for another minute before a voice caught their attention.


    "Ummmm... excuse me? What exactly are you doing up there, and why do you have a do—” it was Oritira, the druid, who gained a look of bemusement upon seeing Ushri’s companion. “Oh, it's you, Kumo."


    Kumo was quite surprised to see Oritira, especially so soon after their meeting at the lake, barking a happy, "Hello!" to the druid.


    "...sure. Ugh… Hello to you too Kumo,” she greeted, still groggy. “I'm coming up there. Gods above, you'd think people would have more sense than to just shout things in the middle of the night." For all her grousing Oritira seems to be waking up quite quickly, scrambling up the cold stone walls with her bare hands before pulling herself over the lip and onto the roof. Kumo noticed she was still donned in her day clothes. “Like I was about to say, what are you doing up there?”


    Ushri immediately turned bright red, but continued to pet Kumo. Tears had almost begun to form in her eyes.


    "NORMAL THINGS!” she squeaked out defensively. “U-Um… normal… scary… mercenary things."


    The druid frowned. “Well… then… what was all that shouting about no deaths about?"


    This got Kumo to listen intently; he was curious about this as well.

  • "I… it was a promise,” Ushri sighed, hugging Kumo tighter. “I never wanted to kill anyone in the first place. It's just that, well, when you're with Meka things always seem to go wrong. Sometimes violence becomes unavoidable, but even then killing is just… I mean, it's the end. That person had a life, a whole story, just like you or me. It's not fair to them for me to end that story. What gives us the right to do that?


    "Every night, I stay up counting every death I've ever caused. Every night I see those I’ve killed in my sleep. There's not a single one I don't regret. When we joined this tournament, I thought I could do it, that I could kill my competitors. It wasn’t personal, it was just part of the competition. I figured that it'd be easier if I didn't know you. But, then, at dinner, I spoke to you all and now… I… I don't think I can do it! I don't think I could kill any of you! I don't want to!"


    Kumo couldn't help but snuggle in a bit more to Ushri hearing that, especially given she was hugging him tighter anyway. He still had a plethora of questions, but he was hesitant on whether or not it would be considered respectful to ask them, especially at this time. Regardless, he was now certain there was more to Ushri than he had first believed, and he wanted to better understand her plight.


    Oritira was pleased with what she heard. Perhaps this was closer to what Kumo meant about finding people like-minded. If Ushri's disposition to killing applied equally to animals in the wild, she could serve as another ally, which would be helpful.  Either way, the lack of death in the tournament, if it could be pulled off, would presumably be pleasing to Friyena.


    "I can't say that my life has been nearly as violent. I've spent my time healing and trying to shelter away those being driven from their homes as it is turned into civilized lands. However, I would be equally reluctant to kill anyone here,” Oritira affirmed, despite the fact that she had a venomous snake coiling around her arm at the moment.


    Hearing this, Ushri put out a hand to Oritira. "Then join me. Promise me that you won't kill in this tournament."


    Oritira looked in surprise at Ushri. That was a rather sudden demand. "I would, but I don't think I can,” she warned. “I don't know how I'd win while restricting myself as such. In this case, winning is slightly more important than killing for all the lives I could save. You have a sword.  You can disarm someone and put the blade to their throat until they surrender. I have my magics, but they're far more likely to kill someone by mistake. The precision with which a vine can squeeze is far less than you may think. I will try to avoid killing, I can promise that, but actual results are far harder to control.”


    Kumo, on his end, didn't want to kill either. He had hardly killed in the past. It was against his order's standards to kill when an enemy could be reasonably subdued. Thus, the only foes that had ever met an actual demise to his blade were the horrors from the abyss, creatures that could not be contained by traditional means.


    Kumo wasn't here to kill, nor was he here to arrest. There were a plethora of wanted criminals that had somehow made their way into this tournament, Ushri included, but in a competition such as this that was not his responsibility. His responsibilities were providing a fair fight for his opponent and keeping himself and those around him alive.


    Kumo paused for a moment, then had a thought, realizing he had a druid there to translate for him. "Can you ask Ushri how she plans to best her enemies if not through killing?"


    "I want to ask you though, how exactly would you not kill people?” the druid then asked for Kumo. “If they refuse to surrender, and you will not kill, how do you win?"


    "Then I will outlast them. If they will not surrender I will fight until they do, no matter if it takes days or even weeks!” Ushri declared proudly.


    Kumo couldn't help but chuckle good-naturedly at this, though to Ushri it just seemed like he was growling playfully in response. "Let her know I admire the optimism, and that I hope things work out that way. I'd go as far to say it's what I'm planning to do."


    "Kumo admires your optimism, and agrees that no deaths would be appreciated. He plans to join us in our attempts,” Oritira directly translated, curious to how Ushri will react to the translation.


    "He...he can talk?" Ushri remarked, looking down at Kumo with wide eyes.

  • "Yes.  He's as sentient as you or I, just.... linguistically challenged. His mouth can't properly form the sounds for common language. I've offered to serve as his translator while here." A small chuckle escaped Oritira's lips. "I don't plan on losing, but even if I do I'm gonna stick around to help out I think, and spread awareness for my cause."

    Ushri's hand continued to pet Kumo, but it's clear she now felt a bit awkward. Kumo for his part certainly didn't seem to mind. He had let his original host family and even his order do this. It was, in his eyes, part of his place in the world as a dog. Even if he found himself able to do more than the average dog, it certainly didn't stop him from just being a dog for people who needed it.


    "So, we're all up in the middle of the night like this. What exactly are we going to do?" Kumo asked, tilting his head inquisitively.


    "Preferably something down on the ground,” the druid replied directly, “I don't feel like being up on the roof is the safest decision…” 


    Kumo nodded to this, something Ushri could see. He wasn't exactly comfortable high up on an unsecured roof like this, but something out Ushri's grasp around him made him feel comfortable and safe.


    The two then noted the mercenary’s confused expression. “Oh, Kumo just asked what we're going to do since we're all up in the middle of the night,” the Druid explained.


    "Well… why not have a night out? The city's all ours after all,” the Mercenary proposed.


    Kumo was intrigued. He had never really been to a 'night out' before. His order of knights had always recommended the 'early to sleep, early to rise' lifestyle. "What would we do?" he asked, intending the druid to translate.


    Oritira wasn't too familiar with the concept herself; it's not like she was normally in cities and would have any clue. To her, a "relaxed evening" was cuddling up in a pile of furry friends and pleasant dreams. "What would we do?" She asked, echoing what Kumo had said. "I've not ever really ‘had a night’ in civilization to enjoy." 


    Ushri laughed boisterously. "The same thing all great warriors do on the eve of battle: drink!"


    She stood and motioned out to the city, still holding Kumo under her arm. "Let's go!"


    Kumo was quite taken aback by the mercenary’s sudden shift in conduct. Drink? Late at night? Right before a day of battle? Oh, the indignity! This was going to be like the hydromancer at dinner all over again. He was going to pass on that, though he was being carried so he couldn't exactly not tag along.


    "I presume you mean alcoholic beverages?” the druid asked for clarification. “I haven't had any before, so, well, why not I guess? I'm not going to have a lot though..." 


    She noted Kumo's hesitancy, adding, "I will say, I don't have money to pay for it."


    Admittedly, the dog was in a similar boat. He didn't have many funds to his name to begin with, and much of that had been spent on his journey to the tournament.


    "Alcohol?" The mercenary cocked her head. "Dude, I've got a dog with me. I know a juice bar like three blocks from here. C’mon! My treat!"


    Oritira felt dumb. She flushed in the moonlight. "I uh… I didn't think of that.  'll take you up on that offer."


    Kumo’s attitude on the night changed dramatically with this news. He knew what he could and couldn't have safely. Plus, Ushri was treating them. What were the odds? It certainly wasn't how he had expected this night to go, but he was now absolutely interested in this little adventure, barking in approval. With a group cheer, the three set out into the city for a night of drinks, comradery, and celebration, one last hoorah before the challenge began.

  • (This post continues from this story post by @Arceus8523 )

    The squire looked down at Kumo, who was displaying his interest in the bag containing Syr Cedric's helmet. "You follow me out here or something?" They knelt down on one knee, trying to be more on his level. They reached out to pet him, as was habit around dogs, and then pulled their hand back slightly. "Sorry, is it okay to... pet you?" This wasn't a question they'd ever expected to ask, but a lot of unexpected things had happened lately, what was one more? Thankfully, Kumo barked affirmatively with a nodding motion, and the youth began carefully petting him, including small scritches behind the ears. "Feels kinda weird doing this, considering you're a competitor, but it's also kinda nice and relieving." The petting continues wordlessly for about half a minute. "My, umm, mentor is going to be having me spend most of tomorrow training. If you'd like, you can show up at some point. I don't think he'd say no to someone else that deals in knightly business attending." The question could've been used as an attempt to gather information, but truth be told, the squire simply wanted Kumo's company for it. Kumo tilted his head slightly, as though contemplating the offer, followed by an affirmative bark. "Good to hear. I'll see you sometime tomorrow, then." The youth finished off with some gentle chin scratches before standing back up and making their way to their lodging, looking back at Kumo once more as they departed.
  • Chapter Seven - The Second Match

    A cold wind swept through the path, snuffing out the royals’ magic lantern.

    “Hold my hand,” the queen said, “We need to stick together.”

    The fog was overbearing. Without a guiding light in front of them, all they could see were the thick layers of white fog that even hid the night sky from them.

    Suddenly they heard a scream from the distance.

    “Did you hear that?”

    “Yes,” the king responded nervously, “I’m scared.”

    “D- do you think Aki is okay?”

    “We can’t worry about him right now. Right now, this is about us. About our plane. Aki is childish, yes, but I know he’ll sort things out with Byrre at some point.”

    “Right, so-”

    “We keep moving. Nyrine should be straight ahead with her prophecy.”

    —------------------

    By sunset, spectators were filing into the grand cliffs stadium. The spectators were all on the tallest cliff, on the west side of the stadium. Many of the spectators were tired after their early morning, but they were nevertheless excited for the next match.

    There was a warm breeze constantly sweeping through the lower levels, causing red dust to spray in the air across the bottom of the canyon-like structure. On the east side of the stadium, Aki, Byrre, and Rehela sat calmly in a reinforced steel booth.

    Meanwhile, in the canyon, Raeza was skulking in the shadows placing crystals everywhere on the ground.

    “I must be prepared. These crystals will keep me ready for anything.”

    Raeza smiled.


    “If I can just detain them, no one will be hurt. Right?”

    Meanwhile, Ushri was sitting with Meka on top of a cliff, lecturing Meka on their strategy.

    “Okay, we make this fast and simple. Got it? No death. No nothing. Just an entertaining match.”

    Meka nodded eagerly, then shifted her attention back to the red sand, making turkeys out of her handprints in the sand. Meka chuckled a little bit and then looked up at Ushri. “Calm down, Ushri!” Meka smiled, “We will win this. Together!”

    Ushri smiled weakly back.

    Aki stood up and the crowd went silent, bracing themselves for another long speech. Aki started talking about the rich history of the stadium for a few minutes until Byrre elbowed him.

    “Ow! So, yeah. Now that you know the history of this stadium, hopefully you can enjoy the match to its fullest! So, let’s give a warm welcome to Raeza Photocryst!”

    Raeza readied themselves and got into a fighting stance. The crowd cheered. It was clear they had a lot less energy than in the morning.

    “And on the other side, we have Meka, a street orphan, and Ushri-…are they fighting?”

    Ushri and Meka were already bickering.

    “No! Stop it. We need to focus! You can’t make drawings in the sand right now!”

    “But I like-”

    “This is real, Meka,” Ushri shouted, “This is our lives at stake!”

    Meka stopped arguing.

    “Sorry,” Ushri said. She handed Meka a granola bar. “Take this.”

    Meka smiled and accepted it. Meka’s smile made Ushri smile too.

    “Let the second match of the tournament begin!”

    ----------------------
    @East2West and @cadstar369

    Good luck to both of you! This is a very close match in all aspects, so it may take me a bit longer to decide the victor in this fight!
  • edited February 23
    (Thanks to @Arceus8523 for helping with this interaction between Claire and Kumo)

    Claire woke up with a paw tapping her face. Her head was pounding, and it hurt to think. Opening her eyes, she saw Kumo sitting next to her with a cup of water right in front of him. “How did he get in?”, she thought to herself, “did he open the door, or did I not close it completely last night?”

    After sitting up on the hardwood floor, Claire stared at Kumo for a little bit. Partially out of confusion, and partially to endure the pain of the headache. As if Kumo could tell that her head was hurting, he nudged the cup towards her with his nose, and smiled at her as if saying “here, drink this!”

    “Is this for me?” she asked, taking the cup, “Thank you…”

    She sat there sipping on the water for a moment, until she stopped, and looked down into the cup. “I don’t know if you can understand me, but I want you to know that you are the first person in a long time that has done a kind gesture for me. I don’t know how exactly I got here, but I come from a different world, and everyone there is always trying to take from each other just to survive…”

    Kumo tilted his head as if he was listening very intently.

    “The last person who was this kind to me was… My adoptive father, Samuel…” Claire started sniffling at the thought of him. She still couldn’t tell if Kumo was just reading her body language, or if he could actually understand what she was saying, but regardless, he got closer to her, and started rubbing his head on her shoulder.

    “He…” continued Claire, “Was the kindest person I’ve ever known… But… He died ten years ago. I still miss him dearly.” After mentioning Samuel’s death, Kumo immediately stopped, and looked at her with sympathetic eyes. He then sat down on her lap, and turned his head to lick the bottom of her chin.

    After giving a few pets to her fellow competitor, tears started falling down her face, and she wrapped her arms around Kumo, giving him a big hug. She started sobbing into Kumo’s back, and he continued to comfort her by licking her cheek and resting his head on her shoulder. It could have been her imagination, but she thought that she could feel a tear fall on her shoulder. However, it didn’t really matter to her. All that mattered was that someone was finally there for her again.

  • "nothing here either"
    Jesper put the tenth volume aside and Nyrine did the same with some gray papyrus scrolls.
    "It's useless, Couldn't you even take a look into the future and see where the information we seek is?"
    "It doesn't work like that, and you know it"
    A couple of volumes joined the pile of revised documents.
    "Has no person ever sought to communicate with Friyena before?" Jesper claimed frustrated "No rite, spell, or ritual?"
    "I think before it was easier than that, I think..." The glance was fleeting but precise "Jesper, move out of there NOW!"
    The young man did not hesitate for a second, he fully trusted Nyrine's abilities to obey like a spring to that tone. He jumped to one side just in time to see the chair's shadow harden and curl like a bear trap around the piece of furniture, shattering it. Nyrine came to his side and helped him up. what
    "By Psamael's blanket! What is that?"
    Nyrine took a few steps back before answering. It's name came to her head with a certainty that she herself was unaware of.
    "The abyss!... We must get out of here!"
    The shadow tentacles searched the air for them, Jesper drew a pair of blades to protect himself if they got any closer. Nyrine tossed some books into the mass of shadow in self-defense.
    The tentacles slithered and groped the books examining them, then some disappeared and began groping at random.
    "They... They don't know where we are" Nyrine deduced "someone must be looking for us but they don't know exactly where we are... Or they don't want to get too close to this place"
    "We should take advantage of escaping" Jesper said and looked around. The shadows had widened everywhere, especially around the door frame.
    "If we go out there they will detect us" Nyrine said with a prescient certainty that made her blood run cold.
    "let me try something"
    Jesper grabbed a book from a shelf and tossed it into a corner, the shadowy tentacles repairing to the spot and the shadows farthest from the impact site thinning slightly.
    "If we could create enough Chaos in here we could confuse them enough."
    "I have an idea, but I need the book below, the first one we saw"
    Jesper surveyed the terrain and nodded. He jumped to a chair and from there to a shelf, retreating just before a dark tendril closes where his foot used to be. Nyrine started throwing books left and right as her friend landed on the table. 
    He hurriedly rummaged through the pile until he found the book they needed and tossed it to Nyrine.
    "Done, now just let me find the diagram and..."
    "Diagram? And how and where do you plan to draw it in time?"
    "It's a book Jesper, the diagram is already drawn" she paused for a moment in front of the image of a black monument. She was sure she had caught a glimpse of it in her vision.
    "Well... That's good, but you might want to hurry up a bit"
    Nyrine looked up and suppressed a shriek as she saw Jesper held back by thin but firm strands of darkness. A shadow darker than the others began to materialize under the table.
    "Ok... Ok..." She tore off the sheet with the drawing of the monument and kept it in her neckline "Where was it?... HERE!"
    The girl put the open book on the floor and immediately the filaments held it. She firmly read the ancient language and cast the spell.
    Chaos and destruction, entropy and reaction,
     that what is done must go,
    by the work and hand of the one who sleeps
    at thirty thousand feet!

    Instantly the lines of the diagram in the book began to light up first and then to burn. 
    "I hope it lasts long enough to be of any use to us" She thought as she ran to Jesper and helped him free himself. The flames of the spell turned green and cold and, like corn in the pan, Little red balls began to jump out of the center of the book and quickly turned into rabid demonic  gremlins.

    "Wait... Wait... NOW!" Nyrine yelled as Jesper cut the last dark strand and the last gremlin bounced off a wall. 
    They both ran towards the exit, dodging the gremlins' claws and teeth and the tentacles that clumsily fought against them. 

    As soon as they crossed to the other side Jesper slammed the door shut and barred it with a chair.
    "Ufff, we almost didn't count it" he said smiling, but the expression on Nyrine's face erased his smile "We're surrounded... Right?"
    He turned slowly and found himself surrounded by a half circle of spear points and the soldiers who carried them.
    "You have five minutes to tell us what you were doing in there" 

    The shadow under the table finished condensing and a figure emerged from it. He looked around and with a wave of his hands the tentacles around him stopped fumbling and, precise as ever, seized the summoned gremlins and engulfed them in their darkness. The sinister figure looked around again and frowned. move a hand, and when he finished moving neither he, nor the gremlins, nor the shadows, were already there.

    "Four minutes left now" insisted the one who seemed to be the leader of the platoon. Suddenly the pandemonium that sounded behind the door ceased to be heard. Jesper swallowed and Nyrine blushed. 
    "What if we told you from now on that you are not going to believe us?


  • The Second Match (End)

    VSPhoton ArrayRaeza Photocryst

    Meka dashed at Raeza right away holding her large gunlance. Raeza shook their head and conjured a photon ray, which hit Meka’s feet, causing her to trip off the edge of the cliff.

    “Meka!” Ushri yelled.

    “I’m fine!” a voice yelled from the bottom of the canyon.

    Ushri breathed a sigh of relief.

     “Ooh look there’s a crystal down here,” Meka’s voice shouted. Then there was an explosion.

    “USHRI!!! I’m not fine anymore!”

    Ushri glanced for a moment at Raeza, who was conjuring a defensive cage of electricity around themselves, then jumped down into the canyon towards the direction of the explosion. It took Ushri a moment to navigate the maze of rocks, but still finally found Meka sitting on a large boulder.

    “The crystals explode,” Meka said flatly.

    “So I’ve realized.”

    “So, what’s the plan?” Meka asked.

    “You asked me what the plan was?” Ushri looked dumbfounded.

    “Yes.”

    “Wow.”

    They shared a moment of silence before Ushri started talking again.

    “We need to move quickly, but together. We need to make sure Raeza can’t focus.”

    “Okay. Got it.”

    “She’s standing over that cliff right there.” Ushri pointed to a cliff in the distance. “Are you ready?” Meka nodded.

    They started in Raeza’s direction. Right when they were below Raeza’s cliff, a loud siren pierced the warm air. Raeza smiled. Tendrils of energy reached below the cliff and surrounded the duo.

    “W-what should we do?” Meka shouted.

    “I don’t know!” Ushri responded.

    The tendrils of energy closed in on the pair and wrapped around Ushri.

    “Meka!” Ushri shouted, “Help!”

    “How?!”

    “Just…do something!”

    Meka looked around frantically. The claws of energy slowly started to close in on her too.

    “Aha!”

    Meka saw a crystal at her feet. She picked it up and chucked the crystal on top of the cliff, towards Raeza. It exploded, causing black smoke to cloud their vision. The energy holding Ushri disappeared and she landed on the rock with Raeza. Ushri charged at Raeza with her blade out only for a shield of solid light to appear between them. When Ushri lashed out at Raeza’s legs, the wall of light blocked it. The impact caused her blade to fly out of her hand into the canyon below her.

    Raeza cast another photon beam towards Ushri, who spun out of the way. The girl quickly closed the gap between her and Raeza. With impressive speed she threw a punch at the shaman. Raeza stumbled backwards.

    “There’s no need for such barbaric tactics,” Raeza said.

    Ushri readied herself again, but this time Raeza was ready. She tilted her blade so that it reflected the light of the setting sun in Ushri’s eyes, blinding her, then created a third photon beam.

    “Catch!” Meka yelled from behind Raeza. She tossed Ushri’s blade to her. Quickly, Ushri pushed the blade in front of her, splitting the photon beam into two. It hit two rock structures behind her, causing them to collapse in a bright explosion.

    Meka fired her gun lance at the floor beneath Raeza. The shaman was ready, however, they moved their hands in a circle, creating a gravity well of sorts. The projectile changed paths, heading straight down into the canyon below. Unfortunately, the shaman was not ready for the explosion. With the accelerated speed from the gravity well, the shell exploded violently, sending a shockwave throughout the entire canyon. The cliff the three fighters were standing slowly started to crack, then gave way moments later as all three of the champions were tossed into the air like ragdolls because of the shockwave.

    All three of them landed on the rocky canyon ground, and luckily, had sustained only a few minor injuries.

    “This ends now!” Raeza shouted.

    All the crystals she laid in the canyon prior to the match raised into the air, forming an array of sorts. Energy lit up between them and finally struck both Meka and Ushri. Both of them screamed as their bodies refused to move.

    “Do you trust me, Ushri?” Meka yelled.

    There was a pause. “Of course.”

    Meka, visibly struggling against the beams of energy from the array, reached into her pocket to grab some of her leftover granola bar.

    “Are you serious, Meka? Now!?”

    “Just wait and see,” Meka smiled.

    Meka somehow managed to toss the granola bar into the sky, causing it to collide with one of the crystals in the air. The crystal shifted and crashed into another crystal, which crashed into another, and then even more after that. The chain reaction went on and on causing colorful fireworks to burst from Raeza’s photon arrays as the crystals exploded one by one. The energy binding the duo quickly flickered out.

    “Now’s our chance!”

    Meka grabbed one of Ushri’s swords and charged at the stunned Raeza. Raeza held their hands up as they stared at the fireworks exploding above the cheering crowd.

    “However you managed to think of that, it was genius. I’ll say, I’ve gained a lot more respect for you two after this. I’m glad to surrender. This was a good match.”

    The crowd was cheering wildly as the three shook hands in the center of the Canyon.

  • The Second Match - Winner!!



    This match was particularly hard to decide because both of you did such an amazing job at developing your characters. Raeza's character sheet was simply amazing and really helped me understand what Raeza's capabilities are. On the other hand, I didn't know as much about Ushri and Meka's capabilities, but I connected with this duo on a whole new level. The dynamic between Ushri and Meka (especially the part about Ushri's view on life and Meka) AND interaction with other characters is really what sealed the match for me.

    @East2West Congrats on your win! You did an excellent job at developing strong characters that I've enjoyed using in writing. You may create a new champion with max CMC5 or a new signature card.

    @cadstar369 One must win, and one must lose. That is the horrible nature of such a tournament. When this match was made at the beginning, I had actually planned for Raeza to win. You had put in so much effort into your character and towards the end, developed a fun personality for Raeza too. It's a shame I had to let go of Raeza, so it would be amazing to see a concluding story and any other cards if you made them! Congrats on making such an amazing character this tournament.

    “Now that’s more like a good match,” Aki smiled, "I don't like murder."

    "What did you think you were signing up for?" Byrre asked sarcastically.

    Aki opened his mouth to respond.

    "Don't answer that. I already know."

    "Fine." Aki took out his microphone, "Thank you contestants for that wonderful fight and fireworks show! The next match between Oritira and Audhild will take place tomorrow afternoon in the meadow field."

    The crowd cheered one final time before people filed out of the stadium.

  • Got Your (Flash)Back 1/2
    [Five years ago]

    “How can you be sure we’re safe, Ross?” Count Edmund paced nervously into his quarters, flanked by two burly personal guards. Lantern light flickered against the rich wood paneling of the ostentatious room as the trio entered. The heavy door creaked as it swung closed and the shorter of the two protectors turned a small key in the lock behind them.

    “That’s what we’re paid for,” the taller one, Ross, grunted as he strode toward the single window. “You need to quit worrying.” He jiggled the clasp to ensure that it was properly shuttered.

    Edmund rubbed the bridge of his nose between his fingers as the short guard crouched to check under the lavish canopy bed frame. “I know you’ve heard the rumors. Three consortium members murdered in the middle of the night, no signs of entry, in spite of several armed guards.” He eyed his hired guardians as he hissed the words.

    Ross huffed as he surveyed the support beams that latticed the vaulted ceiling. “What do you expect? The way the consortium runs their affairs doesn’t sit well with everyone.”

    The count’s expression darkened. He angrily wagged a finger at Ross. “I don’t pay you to offer counsel on my affairs. I pay you to keep me alive.”

    Ross stretched his muscled arms wide in a dismissive shrug. “A job which we’ve done quite well I’d say. With all due respect, sir, relax.”

    A pregnant pause hung between them as the count’s slender face flushed with agitation. The short guard busied himself in the corner, inspecting an exotic potted plant. Ross narrowed his eyes and tucked his thumbs into his belt. Edmund finally threw up his hands in exasperation and marched toward his bed. “Fine, but let my concerns be noted.” Ross rolled his eyes and turned back toward the window.

    Lucine exhaled slowly and released her cloaking magic. Shadows swirled away from her as she dropped down from the wooden cross beams. Her thin blade flashed orange in the torchlight. Count Edmund gurgled once as her practiced swipe found its mark.

    The short guard twisted toward the sound of the count’s body hitting the floor, but Lucine was already upon him. He attempted to reach for his sheathed broadsword, but her first slash knocked away his gauntleted arm. The return stroke splattered the adjacent bookcase with crimson.

    Lucine pivoted in place and narrowly managed to get her blade in front of Ross’s scimitar. The force of the blow caused her to stagger back several steps. She quickly swung her tingling arms in front of her to regain her stance and readied her blade.

    The brawny guard spun his jagged sword in his hand as they began to circle each other. A grim dance, Lucine thought. She was wearing her customary dark leather gear, complete with a face mask, but the order was clear - no witnesses. She shot a quick glance to the window. She couldn’t make her escape until this one was dealt with, but he likely didn’t know that, and lack of information provides opportunities.

    Blue light sparked around her hand as she made a sharp twisting motion toward the window. The latch rattled briefly then popped open. Ross turned slightly toward the noise but quickly locked his gaze back on Lucine as he pieced together her objective. “Oh no you don’t. You’re not leaving here alive,” he growled, moving between her and the window.

    Lucine took another step back as she steadied her blade in her left hand. She reached behind her and grabbed a book, flinging it at Ross. He ducked below it, shielding his head with a gloved arm. She snagged another tome and another, throwing them at the guard to keep him off balance. Keeping his arm across his head and his scimitar pointed toward Lucine, Ross began marching forward through the barrage of books.

    As soon as his eyes were covered, Lucine gathered as much mana as she could muster. She grunted with exertion as she conjured the sound of scrambling footsteps dashing past the guard toward the window. Ross shouted as he swung wildly toward the noise, turning in the direction the imaginary culprit was escaping. Lucine took the opening and lunged in to stab at his exposed back.

    Her strike was inelegant to begin with, but Ross’s practiced reflex caused the point to only slice through the straps of his pauldron. He twisted away from the thrust and swiped with his arm to use the momentum for a return blow. Lucine leaned into the attack and his elbow connected with her shoulder, knocking her to one knee. She dropped the blade from her right hand as she staggered, wincing at the raw power of the hit.

    Ross completed his spin, rotating his scimitar to cut at her torso. Lucine grabbed his forearm with her right hand and pushed with all of her might to divert his strike. The jagged blade bit deeply into her shoulder. Ross smiled triumphantly at the sign of first blood between them. His smile quickly faded as he looked down to see the silvery hilt of Lucine’s sword protruding from his chest, the hilt wrapped firmly in her left hand.

    Both combatants breathed heavily as Ross’s arms fell limp at his side. The scimitar fell to the ground, skittering under the bed. The guard collapsed against Lucine as he exhaled a final, ragged breath. She staggered under his weight as she attempted to brace herself.

    “Hey, is everything alright in-” The door swung open after a light click as another guard with a thick beard pushed into the room. His eyes widened in shock as he took in the violent scene. He shouted as he charged toward the assassin, retrieving a large one-handed axe from his back.

    Lucine struggled to dislodge her blade from Ross’s breastplate as the new threat dashed toward her. Her legs buckled as the heavy guard’s body pressed down on her, keeping the sword firmly stuck in place in spite of her efforts. She furiously tugged at the hilt as she tumbled to the floor. The bearded guard brought the axe up high overhead as he rushed across the space between them.

    A metal spike pinned the bearded guard’s hand to the wooden bedframe with a sickening thud and the axe clattered to the floor. His momentum abruptly halted, he turned away from Lucine and grunted in surprise as the second spike found a lethal target. His lifeless body slumped against the bed’s canopy, hanging awkwardly from the embedded spur.

    Lucine whipped her head around toward the window. A sturdily-built woman in athletic black climbing gear balanced proudly in the now-open casement, arm still outstretched from the second throw. Like Lucine, her face was covered in an obscuring wrap.

    Gasping for breath, Lucine muttered a curse as she clambered to her feet and retrieved her sword. She fished in her belt for a small glass vial and quickly collected a measure of her mark’s blood - proof of a completed job. The young woman in the window offered a hand as Lucine approached. Lucine scoffed and batted it aside as she hopped past her out into the night. The woman shrugged and followed as the sound of more footsteps and inquiring shouts drew closer to the count’s room.

  • Got Your (Flash)Back 2/2

    The sounds of subsequent commotion at the late Count Edmund’s manor had long receded into the distance. The two women paused their retreat atop the veranda of an abandoned shop on the outskirts of town. Lucine angrily pulled off her cowl and her long black hair cascaded down her back. “You don’t need to baby me, Ari.”

    Ari undid her own mask, running gloved fingers through her short brown curls. She smirked softly. “Hey, it’s my job.”

    “No, it’s not.” Lucine spat. “You don’t have to be my… my guardian angel or whatever.”

    Ari tightened a strap on her climbing harness. “It’s not like that, I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

    “Then ask me afterward. Let me do my actual job on my own.”

    “I think there’s a leak, Lucine.” Ari looked back across the darkened town. “That’s why I came after you.”

    Lucine paused, taken aback by the news. “A leak?” She squinted and shook her head. “What do you mean? Someone knew about the order?”

    “Unclear. You know how rumors are.” Ari shrugged. “It just seemed that there was more information on the wind than usual. If your route had found its way to the wrong people-”

    Lucine cut her off with a wave of her hand, wincing as the action sharply reminded her of her fresh wound. “You know I can handle myself.”

    “Yes, but I know several others who can handle themselves too. I’m not trying to be a worrywort, I’m just trying to keep you safe.”

    Lucine tapped her foot on the cobbled roof tiles, trying to conjure a good retort. Finding none, she sighed dramatically and pulled her blade from its scabbard. She picked absentmindedly at the new scratches and nicks it had acquired. “I can’t get rid of you, can I?"

    Ari stepped closer to Lucine and rested a hand on her uninjured shoulder. The corner of her mouth turned up in a sad smile. “We’re sisters. You’re stuck with me ‘til the end.”

  • Nice writing @DomriKade ! The quality is off the charts!!!

    I also realized that I forgot to @ the next competitors, so...
    @DrakeGladis and @SpellPiper2213 ;

    Your match will be hosted tomorrow in the late afternoon (so AROUND 3pm PST)

    Good luck to the both of you.
  • edited February 23
    Comment Deleted :smile:
  • 3~ Dreaming of Tomorrow

    After the feast...


    "Heavens... I feel like I'm going to pass out... or retch... or both..."

    Michio had went straight to his room after the feast and sat on the edge of his new bed. As much as he wanted to get to know the other contestants, he felt horribly ill.

    "Stop being so dramatic," a voice spoke from the door. He looked up, and saw his daughter coming in.
    "My throat... burns... my stomach feels awful. Did one of those risen folk contaminate my food?"
    "No, no. The only thing that spoiled the dinner was water girl. Too much noise."
    "You're telling me. I would not be surprised if she turns up dead from alcohol poisoning." He would laugh, but it was ill mannered to laugh at something like that. He was actually somewhat concerned. "But seriously, my stomach-" burp!
    "Need me to get you some ginger from the market?" Mia cocked her head, looking at the mask strapped to Michio's side.
    "You'll have to be careful. You still aren't trained to defend yourself, and some of our competitors-"
    "It'll be fiiine..."
    "If you insist. But I won't be around to help you if something happens; I may be at medical..."
    "Suck it up."
    "I know-" urp "food poisoning isn't a problem for you, but could you-" hic! "take this a bit more-"

    Michio's complaints were interrupted by Mia howling with laughter. He would give her a look, as much to tell her to quiet down and leave him be.

    "You aren't poisoned," Mia assured him. "You're just exploding. Some ginger tea will help you, just like you used to make."
    "Just don't wake anyone up," Michio warned.
    "I won't. It'll be fine..."



    Things were not fine. Mia loved shopping, but there were so many plants here. Plus, she had to wear the mask to maintain her bond with the flock, so people gave her very strange looks; she wasn't part of the tournament... a few people from the distance might of thought it was Michio, but up close it was foiled. But that's when she got an idea... the flock could take any form. Why not take the form of Michio to keep the guards from getting called on her? She could even shape some of the flock into a replica of his favorite sword... it was almost devious, but if it works, it works! Heck, Michio might actually be thankful for this stroke of genius; while she was using it to impersonate him, he might just be able to put it to use in battle...



    With the disguise up, Mia did what she could to keep up the guise... which unfortunately meant speaking as little as possible. Her father didn't have the lowest voice, but she definitely couldn't effectively mimic it. She went through the market for what much have been an hour, trying to just find proper ginger, when she realized she had been walking around in a circle. That's when she was tapped on the shoulder by a guard.

    "Hey. You've been acting weird. Is everything alright, sir?"
    She did her best to put on a convincing voice, but instead ended up sounding like one of those kids in a trenchcoat, obviously young and faking the voice of someone older. "Yeah, I was just looking around."
    "I just saw you walk around the same set of market stalls for an hour."
    "I just can't seem to find the ginger..."
    "Oh, the ginger? She's over there." The guard pointed to the roof of the contestants' quarters, and at that moment, Mia heard her yell out. "No one dies this time! NO ONE!" 
    "Oh, there- wait, no the root. Ginger root."
    "...you literally walked past it twenty times. It's right there, ma'am." He points to a stall, but just as she turns to look, the shopkeeper had begun rolling things up to go home.
    "...boo."
    "Better luck next time, kid. Now, you might want to get home before you get in any trouble. I'll let you off with a slap on the wrist, but impersonating a contestant of the Tournament? That'd normally land you in serious trouble..."

    Mia did the walk of shame as she made her way back without the ginger. No one dies, huh? she thought to herself. I sure hope so. I have a very bad feeling that's not going to be the case th- "GAAAH!"

    Mia jumped and dispersed into a flock of oragami cranes as she was tapped on the shoulder.

    "Get up, dear. It's just me."
    "Oh, Dad?! I thought you were-"
    "I got the ginger, by the way. You didn't even notice me."
    "What..."
    "Leave the sneaky tricks to me."
    "This is so embarrassing..."
    "You're lucky we can have this conversation via telepathy, else it'd be much more embarrassing."
    "Meanie."
    "Let's go back now. My stomach's feeling better, but I think I'll just stick with fish from now on."




    "So when were you going to tell me you could impersonate me so well?"
    "Uh- um- I just found out?"

    The two were back in the room, and a poking war had broken out... only to escalate into throwing paper cranes at each other.

    "No, this explains a lot. A lot of people have told me I've been acting weird-"
    "I really did just find out," Mia retorted, "but I had a thought. Maybe we could use it in battle?"
    "Be very careful, Mia. That's brilliant, a great thought. But you're still not properly trained to defend yourself. I taught you the basics, but you aren't ready to face a seasoned swordsman like myself... let alone... whatever we're facing first."
    "She's still human, dad. Don't be disrespectful..."
    "Right. Sorry, dear."
    "So, if you don't mind, I wanted to practice with you."
    "It's late, dear."
    "Sleep's for the weak. Besides, didn't you say you stayed awake for a week straight before?"
    "In ninja training, and it was the second worst thing I ever did willingly."
    "...what's the worst?"
    "Allowing myself to be drafted."
    "Right. Sorry."
    "No harm in asking, dear."
    "Now, we can't train physically, but do you remember what we did when you found me?"
    "That... that's a flashback and a half."
    "We used illusions in our dreams to imagine what the world could be like."
    "Yes, yes we did."
    "Maybe we could train that way?"
    "Against what? That cleric?"
    Mia just sighs. "You aren't going to drop her, are you?"
    "No. I don't think I will."

    The two were very early risers, so despite the commotion on the roof, they went to sleep. In their dreams they prepared themselves for the coming days. Tomorrow they would do this for real, but tonight, in their minds, they could be heroes, saving the city from bandits and throwing off foes with a few well placed clones... b̸̳̏̈͑͜ű̶̻̀t̸͍̬̐ ̶̨͓̈́̈́̍ͅl̶͇͔̇̔͗i̴̼͎͂ț̶̖̅́t̸̩̠̀͜l̴̫̄e̷̼͔͛ ̷̡̙̭̑d̸̥̈́i̸̮̭̼͆̐d̵̛̰͔̈ ̸̦̌̾t̶̜̎h̴̢̙̙̀̓̚e̶̯̫̜͐̊y̶͈̣̏͒ ̴̛̞͓͗͗ǩ̵̞̭̀n̷̤̍͆ö̵̺͈́͋w̸̡̔̉͜ ̵̺͕͈͒t̷̤̰̀̒̑h̷̟̣̱̒͝a̸̠͙̭͒̇̔t̶͙͆ ̴͇͉̎͊d̷̩̉r̵͙̮̟͊̿e̸̱̓͌a̷͔̠͌m̵̤̾͊̇ ̶̞̙͖́̋w̵̛̺̺̐o̵̬̽ṵ̵͊ḽ̵̌̈d̶̥͑̅ ̸̰̞̜̅̽͠b̷̡͐̔̈́e̵͊̅͝ͅc̸̲̚͝o̷̝̞̔m̷̳̮͘ĕ̶͔ ̶̩̿̈́n̴̢̨͠ì̴̺̊͗g̷͕̓͠h̶̬̠͊t̸̲̩̀m̵̀͒̾͜a̵͔͋r̵̩̀͊e̸͚̎


  • The capital city had been exciting to explore in the time Audhild had gotten to explore it. The architecture, the food, and the people were all interesting to the duelist. She was more used to Attya, which tended to be spread out. The urban sprawl had countless places to explore and people to meet. Audhild would have to spend some more time here, whether or not she continued being a champion.
    The training grounds were popular with certain champions, which didn’t surprise the duelist. She'd been on it enough times as it were. Oritira, Kumo, the knight Navor - all of them had been at the training grounds at various points since the duels had been announced.
    Speaking of the upcoming duels, she had to be in top form for hers.
    As she went through her sword forms, Audhild’s mind drifted. She remembered her father Tasser leading her through the forms, the feel of a wooden sword in her hands, her first duel when she was fifteen… 

    ________________________

     “To the first blood, as always,” Tasser said. He was scowling, something he rarely did around Audhild. 
    “Yes, yes, as always,” Berenic said. He was around Tasser’s age, shorter than him, with mousy hair. “Tasser, why can’t we settle this ourselves? Surely we can’t-”
    “Your second child challenged mine, Berenic,” Tasser replied, “and they’re coming of age. They’ve both accepted the duel…”
    As Tasser and Berenic continued to argue, Audhild was looking over at her challenger, Berenic’s son Ulr. He looked a little lost, like he hadn’t expected his challenge to get this far. Still, he also looked hopeful, and was carrying his dueling sword.

    Attyan Dueling Blade

     
    Audhild looked down at the one in her hand. It looked almost new, although she knew that was because of her father’s adherence to cleanliness. Swinging it around, it felt odd in her hand. Her status as an adult - as family duelist - was before her, balancing on the edge of the blades she and Ulr held.

    Her father walked back towards her. The scowl stayed, and Audhild suddenly felt very nervous. “Audhild,” Tasser said. “You and Ulr are to duel here, with Berenic and I as witnesses. It’s going to be your first full duel as a-” He paused, mouth twitching a little, before looking Audhild in the eyes. “Whatever happens here, I am so proud of you. You’ve become an excellent duelist, and I know you’ll exceed even your own expectations.”

    Audhild smiled up at him and nodded. As she moved to face Ulr, she took a shaky breath. This was it. This would decide everything.

    Duel of the Second-Born

     Ulr was the first to move. He leapt for Audhild, blade swinging for her. Panicking slightly, Audhild parried, retorting only to meet with air. Ulr was backpedaling, looking for an opening. The two began to circle, occasionally feinting to see if they could get an opening. Then Ulr, apparently getting more confident, charged. Audhild dodged, bent away, before remembering what she was doing and nicked Ulr’s shoulder with her sword as he passed.
    She had won her first duel.

     _________________________________________

    Audhild opened her eyes, back at the Tournament. This wasn’t Attya, although there was a part of her that wanted it to be. This was a different place, and she had to be Attya’s representative to it. The upcoming duel was going to be especially hard, since Oritira seemed to be some kind of elementalist or summoner.
    This ring had better protect me, Audhild thought, running a finger along the metal circle. There’s a great victory to be had here. Whoever wins, they prove that they’re one of the best duelists anywhere. If I can win, then I put my name, my family’s name, and my home’s name in the annals of history. She smiled at that, looking up at the Tournament structures and the castle in the distance.
    And you can feel comfortable getting a job with a lich, the little voice whispered in her ear. The duelist could almost hear the smile within it.
    “Be quiet,” Audhild said absently. She’d noticed Hareel walk onto the training grounds with his bow, and she was curious about him. He looked angry. Audhild hoped she could at least reach out to him. The Tournament was a place to be excited and nervous, not angry.

     @TheDukeOfPork whenever you’re ready with your story segment.
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