Book One: Knights' Festival

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Warrior Stands

“Escaped?!” Samantha gasped in surprise. But hope began to bubble inside her. She grabbed the soldier by the shoulders and shook him. “Where have they gone?”

The soldier shook his head. “I don’t know. They’re probably looking for their weapons!”

Samantha froze. There was only one place that held the weapons of criminals. It was on the other side of Xychosia’s citadel; it was also where the most dangerous items and relics were housed. No soldier dared to step foot even at the basement entrance of the tower due to the fear of accidentally activating one of the weapons.

The Tower of Braavade was a tower built by the late King Braavade when he fought against Bianca Odissea three hundred years ago. The young woman’s power was unrivalled and unparalleled in the holy arts despite her mother, the feared Mad Queen Julia, being a master in the dark arts. Bianca in the end lost the battle with King Braavade sealing her powers in what was now famously known as the Tower of Braavade which was said to be the resting place of the king after defeating Bianca.

“We have to go after them!” Samantha wailed. “If they step foot into that tower, they might get themselves killed!”

However, the council remained completely unmoved by her argument.

“Why are we not moving?!” Samantha gasped until realization hit her like a brick. “This is a test... This whole thing was a test! Wasn’t it?”

Ignoring Samantha’s cries, Councilman Pocholo glanced at Councilwoman Jocelyn. “Jocelyn, can you check what’s going on?”

Jocelyn nodded and stepped off from the podium and down onto centre of the floor. She inhaled deeply before closing her eyes. Samantha gasped as a pink light burst into tiny petals that whirled around in a petal whirlwind. While the petals swirled around her, pink summoning glyphs appeared and soon began to summon a spiritual avatar. The avatar swelled into a giant humanoid. Her eyes were blinded by briar thorns covering her eyes as golden hair flowed past her shoulders. A red rose bud formed her ballroom skirt while the red petals folded around her torso. The female humanoid folded her hands over Jocelyn’s eyes. Samantha swallowed nervously as she gazed at the towering spiritual avatar.

“Well, Samantha wasn’t wrong.” Jocelyn said. The humanoid slowly disappeared as she dismissed the spiritual avatar. “They are heading to Tower of Braavade.”

“Most likely to look for their weapons.” Pocholo said with a frown and folded his arms. He shook his head. “Did you see where they were passing?”

“Well,” Jocelyn paused for a moment. Her lips quirked into an amused smile. “They were a passing more unconventional route.”

Pocholo raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Samantha blinked several times. How could that be? The last time she saw the Tower of Braavade, there was only one way into the tower. And that way, it was loaded with booby traps and all sorts of other things. She shuddered at the thought. The tower was a living weapon by itself!

So, where did they pass?


“You said this place wasn’t booby trapped!” Brandon roared and ducked as a boulder flew towards his face and shattered a stone wall. “You didn’t tell me about the angry pooch either!”

Beatriz snapped. “I didn’t know they bought a pet dog either!”

The lady-in-waiting couldn’t believe it. She remembered that swimming through the moat and swimming through a cavern would have gotten them past the booby trapped bridge. What she didn’t expect however was a big white Bandersnatch standing at the foot of the stairs to greet them.

The Bandersnatch growled with its white fur standing on its ends. Its floppy ears framed its face but it did nothing to soften its growling and snarling features. The rabid canine bared its bloodstained fangs with its saliva dripping from its pinks gums.

“Well, anyone got ideas how to take it down?” Beatriz hollered. She yelped and ducked as it paw nearly swiped her head off. “I’m throwing it wide open to the group!”

Brandon leapt over a fallen piece of debris. “Nope, I don’t do dog!”

Beatriz ducked and leapt over another swipe before watching the white dog. She narrowed her eyes at the creature. What kind of idiot keeps a Bandersnatch for a pet?! No noble in their right mind would keep a Bandersnatch for a pet! Bandersnatch were one of the most voracious dog creatures next to an Orthros! It was then it hit her. There was only one person who would buy a Bandersnatch.

“For fuck’s sake, of course!” She smacked her forehead. “It’s Councilman AJ’s dog!” She yelped as the paw smashed into the stone wall, forcing her to move away.

“Who?!” Brandon snapped. He glanced around, panicked. “Where’s Luke?!”

“Over here, Cap!”

The two weaponsmasters looked up when they found Luke on the back of the Bandersnatch. The dog didn’t seem to acknowledge his presence at all and still focused on both of them. Beatriz’s eyes widened as she shoved Brandon away.

“Move!”

She tumbled away as Brandon rolled down on the other side. Beatriz clambered back to her feet as she sidestepped away from its paw. Noticing a medium sized rock, she rushed towards it and struggled to lift the rock. She winced and gasped before finally lifting it off the floor and when the Bandersnatch swiped its paw at her again, she smashed the rock into its paw. The Bandersnatch cried out in pain and began to whimper and whine. It jumped and bounced around, tossing Luke around.

“W-w-w-wait!” Luke yelped and stammered. He grabbed the tufts of white hair tightly as it bounced around. “S-S-s-stop! Y-y-y-you’re s-scaring him!”

Beatriz gawked, admonished. That dog was five times her size! “I’m scaring him?!” She shrieked until she realized what Luke said. “Who’s... him?”

Luke yelped and quickly placed his palms on the dog’s back. Although Beatriz couldn’t see what was happening, the dog soon stopped trying to throw him off. Instead, the Bandersnatch whimpered in pain and retreated far back from Beatriz.

“Shhh, it’s going to be okay,” Luke reassured him with a soothing voice. “Are you okay?”

The Bandersnatch lifted its swollen paw and let out a pained whimper.

At the sight of this, Beatriz gave Luke a proud grin.

Luke shook his head and gently patted it on the head. “I know but you’re bigger than her and you should know better.”

Beatriz blinked in surprise. “Wait,” she glanced at Brandon. “What in Erkalla is he doing!? Don’t tell me he actually –!”

Brandon quickly shushed her. “Wait.”

“Wait what!? That thing was about to eat us and now it’s an overgrown puppy dog! What did Luke do!? What the hell is he!?”

“Something you’re better not knowing.”

Before she knew it, she heard Luke humming a small tune. Her body relaxed at the sound and all her anger seemed to melt away. She looked up in surprise as her power began to shrink when a warmth began to pulse in her body. Beatriz glanced at her hands as she felt her mana being replenished in her veins.

“Wow,” Beatriz glanced at her body and then gasped in admonishment. “Whoa!”

Golden waves swirled in the air with lights flying around. She stared in amazement; when did Luke have this kind of ability? The last time she saw magic like this was almost 20 years ago in the hands of an ancient race. Could it be, she thought and glanced at Luke. She squinted her eyes to get a closer look only to see the Bandersnatch whimper and then croon in relief as its paw stopped swelling. The large canine then folded its paws and lay down on the group as the golden waves lulled it to sleep. Luke slid off the Bandersnatch’s back and dusted his hands.

“Well, is this the last of it?” Luke beamed.

Beatriz dropped her jaw. She shook her head. “How...?”

“How...?”

“How did you do that?”

Luke shrugged. “A little kindness goes a long way.”

As the small boy made his way towards the stairs, Beatriz followed after him and Brandon. It still bothered her to no end. What was Luke supposed to be? He orders vine to slug a guard and steal the keys. He summons a large tree to bring them all the way to the top floor. And finally, he soothed the troubled canine guardian of the Tower of Braavade. She trudged behind them, racking her memory for any race.

“There’s the Fae class,” Beatriz murmured. She glanced up the stairs to see Luke marching up the stairs. She checked for any signs of pointed ears, spotted skin, herbaceous texture, and even fairy wings! Nada, zilch. “Damn it, he’s probably using Concealment Magic.”

As she made her way up the stairs, Beatriz closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. She could feel the magical energies swirling around the tower. Some of them even had voices, much to her annoyance.

She’s still alive!

We must find her!

Beatriz growled inwardly; she was right there! “Quit talking about me in the third person!”

She’s there.

She’s here.

She has come.

She… our beloved…

… la…

Beatriz scowled and let out a disgruntled snort; so much for sensible ramblings. She looked up as the mana had become so dense that it even appeared in physical form. She had only seen raw mana once. It was when she had gone to the northern regions. The War on Snowblind – Snowblind Fort was known to be the impenetrable fort of the Maraudein Empire. It was the last resort of the empire should they need a last stand against a large army. Suddenly, her nerves tingled when she felt a dark presence behind one of the doors. Along with it, she could hear the sound of the oceans.

“I found it!” Beatriz rushed towards one of the doors. Excited, she yanked the doorknob with all her might only for the door to refuse to budge. “Come on!”

Luke asked.”Um, Bea…?”

Beatriz ignored him before body-slamming against the door with her shoulder. She grunted and gave it another slam with her shoulder. “Budge!”

“Bea –.”

“—Budge!”

“Bea –!”

“—Push!”

“Bea –!”

“ – Stupid thing, why won’t you budge!?”

“BEA!”

The lady-in-waiting gasped, panting in exhaustion. She then turned to Brandon and Luke. “What are you two idiots standing for there? Help me open the door!”

Brandon chuckled in amusement. “It’s because there’s a magic enchantment on the door, dumbass.”

Beatriz frowned and then turned to the door. She glanced at the simple wooden door standing before her before she started poking it. A frown marred her features when she gave it a strong kick. She glared daggers at the door before punching the door with a loud scream of frustration. Sweat poured down her face as she gasped for air dropping her forehead against the door and her arms, swollen, hung limply on the sides of her body.

“Well, I’m out of ideas.” Beatriz groaned and turned to Brandon and Luke. “You guys could start kicking the door now.”

Brandon shook his head. “Kicking that door isn’t going to get your scythe back.” He turned to Luke. “But solving the enchantment can.”

Beatriz gawked and stared at the door. She then waved her arms frantically in the air. “What bloody enchantment!? There’s nothing on it!”

Brandon snickered and walked towards the door. He then knocked on the door and brushed his fingers against it for a bit. Beatriz rolled her eyes.

“Well, we don’t have all day.” She snapped. “Come on!”

Brandon then knocked on the door. After three knocks, glowing glyphs began to appear on the door. Beatriz gasped in astonishment as the lights glimmered bright and the ancient characters began to appear on the wood. Luke’s eyes widened as Brandon smirked.

“Told you.” Brandon chuckled. “Rule number one in being a pirate: never take anything by the surface.”

Beatriz raised an eyebrow and nodded. “Okay so,” she folded her arms. “What does it say?”

“It says,” Brandon squinted his eyes to read. “The eight shall be forevermore.”

Beatriz frowned. “Now that doesn’t make sense.”

Luke shrugged. “Even I don’t know what that means.”

Brandon pondered for a moment, tapping his foot on the ground. “Hmmm…”

Beatriz groaned; if there was anything she hated, it was ancient script magic. She remembered a particular group of people known as Magisters using that kind of magic. Years ago, Magisters wielded a magic that could create barriers and all sorts of things. And all they needed to do was to summon a Fae Torch and focus it on their fingertip before they began scribbling in the air. She had seen meteor showers summoned by script magic. Only the high ranking Magisters could write words longer than ten letters and have it not explode in their face. She then stared at the door in annoyance. The eight shall be forevermore, what did that mean?

“The eight shall be forevermore,” Brandon repeated the words. Suddenly, he jumped up while beaming. “I know what it is!”

Luke blinked in surprise. “What is it?”

“It’s called The Infinity,” Brandon said.

At the sound of Brandon’s answer, the ancient runes suddenly faded and they heard something unlock behind the door. Beatriz gasped in amazement as she placed her hand on the knob. She twisted the knob and much to her amazement, the knob offered no resistance and turned smoothly.

“Damn,” Beatriz nodded. “That’s amazing.”

Brandon shrugged.”Brute strength usually is equated to brute stupidity.”

“Hey, I know I’m stupid but not that stupid!”

“Well, your body-slamming into the wall, cussing, swearing, and snarling at a plank of wood kind of proved otherwise.”

Beatriz rolled her eyes and strode into the room. Seeing the darkness, she snapped her fingers together until she formed a small dark blue pilot light in her fingertip. As she shined the light around, she gasped at the sight of the creatures’ heads mounted on the wall. She saw a Pincer Drake, a Bear, a Leopard, and all sorts of other creatures. She shined her light towards the corners of the room, illuminating the dark spots. Much to her surprise, she saw brass discuses and spears propped against the wall. She shined her lights towards the mounted heads. There was one of a Pincer Drake, Kraken, and smaller heads of Pocket Vultures. She strolled along and saw rusted shackles lying on the ground.

“Well, this room’s rather interesting.” Brandon remarked offhandedly as he came up beside her. “Any traces of our weapons?”

Beatriz shook her head. “I’m still looking.”

“Hey! I found them!” She heard Luke holler.

The pirate and the lady-in-waiting turned around to see Luke pointing to the top of a pile. She found the snath of her scythe impaled at the peak with both of Brandon’s gunblades. She sighed annoyance before flashing the light towards the base of the pile. Most of them were weapons rusted and neglected over years. She shuddered at the sight of the rusted polearms and swords at the base of the pile.

“Fuck, that thing’s not going to accommodate my weight.” Beatriz scowled and folded her arms. “We need someone small. Anyone got ideas?”

“Obviously I can’t,” Brandon shook his head. He then glanced at Luke. “You up for the challenge, mate?”

Beatriz gasped and glanced at Luke. “Can’t you just make a tree?”

“And cause a ruckus that will attract the whole Xychosian army? No thanks.”

“Or even that vine thing?!”

“I don’t have vines.”

“Then how the fuck did you steal the key?!”

Luke’s mismatched gold and rose pink eyes twinkled mischievously. “A pirate never reveals his secrets.”

It was only then that Beatriz noticed the extraordinary characteristic. Although it was in an instant, she knew that he wasn’t human. Heterochromia – a rare genetic trait in humans but a common trait in non-humans. Particularly, Fae. But that’s impossible, she shook her head. That particular Faekind had died out after being constantly hunted for what they were made of. However, the images of Luke summoning a tree, stealing the key from the guard, and soothing the raging Bandersnatch filled her mind. He even understood the creature when it whimpered to him.

Beatriz glanced at Luke. “So how do you intend to get our stuff then?”

The small boy shrugged. “The good old fashioned way. I’m gonna hoof it.”

Luke stepped back before taking a running leap. He landed on one of the shields as he grabbed hold of one of the axes sticking out. Beatriz could have sworn that she heard a small “eep” from him. But Luke didn’t stop. He soldiered on and grabbed hold of what appeared to be a thick shaft of a polearm before hauling himself up.

“For his skinny build, he sure can climb.” Beatriz shook her head in amazement.

Brandon nodded. “Years of fixing the flag, scrubbing the deck, and dealing with all sorts of barnacle brains in the high seas.”

Beatriz glanced up as Luke scaled his way up. She saw him haul himself and grab a rusted spear only for it to shatter in his hand.

“Ah!” Luke hissed. The spearhead tumbled down and crashed on the ground.

“Hey, you alright!?”

Luke hissed in pain before nodding. “Yeah. I’m good!”

As the spearhead rattled on the ground, Beatriz suddenly felt the whole room tremble. She glanced up as everything began to tremble. Swords suddenly split in two and then split into four. Her eyes widened; it was a Gemini Hex!

“Fuck,” Beatriz growled. She then turned to Luke. “Hurry up! We’re gonna get swamped in here!”


Samantha exhaled sharply. She began to pace around again. Although there was a glimmer of hope inside her when she heard they managed to escape, it soon died down when she heard that they were in the Tower of Braavade. She sighed deeply. There was no use worrying about it now.

“So, what do we do now?” Samantha exhaled sharply. She shook her head. “I don’t want to just stand here and wait for them either.”

Councilman AJ scoffed. “Of course we won’t do that!” He stood up from his throne. “We also have other things to plan!”

Samantha raised an eyebrow. “And that would be?”

“There’s only one way to do this.”

“And that would be what? You’re going to throw them into a pit of piranhas and check if they can swim?”

A slow smile curved up the councilman’s lips. “Close.”

Samantha gawked; she was close!? What kind of plans was this councilman planning!?

AJ chuckled in amusement and strode out the door. “I suppose you’ll all be watching?”

Joy rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I’d rather not. Pia needs a companion to stay with her if Jun’s going to be overseeing the trial.”

Jun smiled gratefully. “Thanks, Joy.”

“Anytime. Your wife and I aren’t into this pit fights.”

Jun chuckled and nodded. “Definitely. She and I don’t particularly like that part of the past.”

Samantha raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“There are just some parts of the past that are better off being forgotten.” Jun shook his head. “But enough about me. I guess this is supposedly my jurisdiction now, AJ?”

The other councilman shrugged. “Well, you do know the rules of the pits better than I do.”

Jun sighed and raked his fingers in his hair, shaking his head. “Well, then that leaves me no choice then.”

Samantha blinked several times and raised an eyebrow. “The pits?”


What Samantha didn’t expect to see was the once ruins of a former arena completely restored.

The white colonnades had been newly washed. The sands were poured onto the field and the seats were filled with people from all walks of life. Samantha gasped at the sight of the coliseum; she couldn’t believe it! All the while, the coliseum had been closed for years! But why reopen it now? She then glanced at the council members who had nothing but a stony expression on their faces.

“Wait, what are we doing here?” Samantha asked. “Why suddenly bring back the coliseum?”

Queen Regina exhaled sharply and glanced at Samantha. “Do you remember the stories of when Xychosia used to participate in the Knights’ Festivals and sometimes have its own?”

Samantha nodded. “Yeah, but what happened to that?”

“My grandfather thought it was too barbaric and a waste of time and money so, he decided on a more democratic way of deciding things.” Queen Regina explained. She sighed and turned her eyes towards the audience. “But we open this coliseum for other reasons.”

Suddenly, Samantha heard a loud crunch from below. The gates that led to the area crunched and creaked as its rusted metal grinded against the stone walls. Her eyes widened when she saw a chariot being drawn out by a Spinerhino and a shackled Brandon, Luke, and Beatriz being hauled along. The crowd cheered loudly and roared with frenzy. She shuddered in fear; what was going on?! She then saw Councilman Jun stand up from his throne and walk forward, silencing the crowd with a stretch of his hand.

“Xychosia – ladies and gentlemen all throughout the city, welcome. Welcome to the Grand Coliseum!” Jun announced.

The crowd cheered.

“Long ago, this pit had been closed when King Paceus had decided a more democratic way of taking the throne. But today, we now have a reason to reopen the fighting pits! Because today, three knights have been chosen to serve Princess Samantha!”

Samantha’s eyes widened in admonishment. She turned to Councilman Jun, staring with her jaw agape. They were going to pit them in a fight – against each other?!

“I see that you found your own knights while you were out,” she heard a voice scoff behind her.

Samantha turned around and saw Princess Phylline escorted by Ser Ace. “Princess Phylline! You’re still here?”

She chuckled. “Of course! I wanted to see the outcome and how you wanted to start your attempt to join the Knights’ Festival.” The princess then looked over the railing. “And what of this?” She sneered at the sight of Beatriz, Brandon, and Luke. “And where did those plebians come from?”

Samantha bristled at the word “plebians”. “Those plebians happen to be the best of the best in swordsmanship and are probably smarter than most knights.”

Phylline laughed. “Those... those uncouth ruffians?! Are you kidding me?!”

“Beatriz has always proven her worth with me. And I don’t think Brandon’s and Luke’s pride will let them lose either.”

“Is that so? We shall see then.”

Her blood boiled. How dare Phylline insult her knights like that! Then again, she remembered back then that Phylline as they were children never did treat her servants kindly. The other princess always kept a haughty air around her and sometimes, would even sneer at her. Magic roiled in her fibres. She could feel the mana crackling in her fingers as all sorts of plans flashed in her mind. Turn her into a frog? That would be insulting to frogs. Give her pig ears? A mischievous grin curved up her lips. However, she shook her head. Where did all those mischievous thoughts come from? Suddenly, a loud cheer snapped her out of her daze as she glanced towards the field.

Her heart froze. In the ring, Brandon, Beatriz, and Luke were chained to each their own pillar with their arms raised over their heads. She jumped when she suddenly heard the other gates open.

“Release the creatures!” Councilman Jun commanded.

Samantha paled when she heard a loud hiss. She gasped when a Pincer Drake suddenly emerged from the gates. A shiver ran down her spine when tentacles suddenly shot out of the dungeon doors. A kraken screeched with its beak snapping. She forced down a lump in her throat when tiny creatures burst from the other gate and revealed their scythe shaped claws. The princess squinted her eyes to take a closer look only to see nothing but black dots. Fear seizing her, she rushed towards Councilman Jun.

“Please, stop! What is this?!” She demanded. “They’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Sure they will.” Councilman AJ shrugged nonchalantly.

“You can’t predict the future!”

“Sure I can. But there are two possibilities: one if they do it right or they do it wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

Councilman AJ folded his arms and legs with an amused smirk. “Let’s see if they can do the one job entrusted to them right.”


“The fuck is this?” Beatriz scowled as she struggled against the shackles. “Fuck, they gave me Lumina-based shackles. I can’t use my magic.”

Brandon yanked the chains. “Well, they’re cemented in.” He let out an annoyed growl. “One tug and the whole pillar falls on me.”

Luke exhaled deeply and glanced around. His ears twitched from the loud cheers and the blazing heat that beat against his bare chest. He inhaled deeply and stomped his foot on the ground. Luke groaned; there was barely anything he could use. It was all sand and stone. Suddenly, he saw a glint at the corner of his eye. He looked up to the top of the pillars. On top of the pillars, he saw Brandon’s gunblades and Beatriz’s scythe on the pillars. He glanced at Brandon and nudged him.

“Cap?”

Brandon turned to Luke who nodded at him. He then frowned at him. “Hell no.”

Luke shook his head. “It’ll at least get me out and I can figure a way up.”

“I know that look on your face. It means you’re gonna do it.”

“How else do you intend to get your weapons back?! Don’t tell me you’re gonna magically jump that high!”

Brandon frowned and let put a disgruntled snort. “Tch, fine.”

Luke, smiling, turned to face the creatures. All the colour drained from his face when he saw the Pincer Drake snapping its claws and jaws at him. The glistening skin of the kraken as the sun beat down on it. But it was neither of those creatures that bothered him. It was the Pocket Vultures that shrieked from the sandy floors below with their eyes gleaming and their claws ready to dig into his skin.

“Yeah, animal dialect doesn’t work here.” He then looked up at the glinting peaks of the stone columns. He clucked his tongue. “Here Pincer Drake. Look at me.”

The Pincer Drake turned towards Luke with hunger gleaming in its eyes. It let out an angry hiss and stomped towards him with its sharpened claws for feet. Luke, smirking, bent down as the creature tried to eat him. He quickly jumped to the other side and extended the chain. Instead of his face, the Pincer Drake clamped its jaws onto the chain. It let out a feral hiss as it snapped the chains.

“Yes!” Luke whooped. Suddenly, the kraken shrieked behind him with its tentacles homing in on him. “Oh no.”

He yelped and jumped out of the way, dodging the Kraken’s tentacles and the Pincer Drake’s claws. Sweat poured down his face and the heat blasted his skin dry. Sand flew everywhere as he skidded and bolted away from the angry Kraken. Luke groaned inwardly to himself. He glanced towards the top of the pole before looking at both the Kraken and the Pincer Drake snarling at him. He narrowed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

“Alright.” Luke inhaled deeply before sharply exhaling. “Hey guys, the sun’s getting real low...”

The kraken snarled at him with its snapping beak while the Pincer Drake shrieked at him.

“You know... you guys won’t get much meat out of me. I’m skin and bones.”

Brandon chuckled and hollered. “Yeah, he’s right! You’re barely gonna feel anything if you eat little guppy.”

The creatures turned their attention to Brandon and snarled at him.

“No, no, it’s okay. He’s harmless.” Luke tried to reason, throwing a withering glance at his captain. “But he is right. I’m not very meaty.” He then stepped aside and gestured to the pole. “But these large sausages are!”

Brandon gawked. Luke, what the feth are you doing?!

“Do you smell it? All the roasted and meaty smell?” Luke continued to say. “But I can’t give it to you.” He then stood firm in front of the column with a dark expression. “You gotta get past me first!”

Hearing Luke’s challenge, they struck. The Kraken hissed and flung its tentacles at him while the Pincer Drake lunged at him. The small boy breathed deeply and held his ground. The ground rumbled beneath him before he finally leapt out of the way. The tentacles slammed against the columns and the Pincer Drake, causing a domino effect. The columns crashed down against one another before landing with a loud thud. Luke coughed as dust swirled around him until he saw a blue light gleaming in the dust clouds.

“Cap’s sword!” Luke cheered mentally. His blood froze when he heard the Kraken snarling and the Pincer Drake hissing. “Oh boy…!”

He dove for the blue light and tumbled up, realizing now that he had both of his captain’s swords. “Cap! Where are you!?”

“I’m over here!” Brandon hollered.

“Where!?”

“Here!”

“I can’t see you!”

“Use the ground to look for me, dumbass!”

Luke stopped for a moment only for him to groan in annoyance. “Oh yeah!”

He dropped down on one knee and pressed his palm on the ground. Luke closed his eyes and let his powers travel through the grains of sand. He scowled; the main reason why he hated using sand as a tracker was because it was so shifty. Everything basically moved beneath his palm and it was almost impossible to track someone. Finally, he found Brandon and not a moment too soon when the kraken snapped its beak at him.

“There!” Luke beamed in delight. He bolted towards the shadow and threw the gunblades. “Cap! Catch!”

As the dust cleared, Brandon leapt from the smoke and caught the gunblades. “Got it!”

“Great! Now on to more pressing matters,” Luke sighed in relief only to see that the Kraken and the Pincer Drake were hot on his tail. “Oh no. HELP!”

The Pincer Drake shrieked and stomped towards him with its claws raised high in the air. Luke yelped and ducked. His eyes shut tight. This wasn’t how he planned to die! He swallowed a lump down his throat and grabbed hold of his head as the Pincer Drake swung its claws to decapitate him. Suddenly, he heard a loud clang. His body froze in that one moment. Was he dead? His eyes slowly opened when he found his head still attached to his shoulders and Brandon holding back the pincer claw.

“Find Bea’s scythe and get it to Bea! She can rip these monsters into shreds!” Brandon hollered. H grunted as the Pincer Drake knocked him back. “Get on it, sea pup!”

Luke saluted. “Aye sir!”

The small boy rushed through the dust clouds and covered his mouth with his shirt. His eyes teared slightly with the dust particles rushing into his eyes. Coughs and gasps ripped from his throat as the burning sand cooked right through the rubber soles of his shoes.

“Bea!” He hollered through the clouds. “Bea!”

While looking through the dust, he suddenly heard coughing. His ears perked as he lunged forward towards the sound. Sweat poured down his face as his white tunic clung to his scrawny body. His throat burned. His lungs strained from breathing. The arid airs burned through his nostrils as he gasped and panted for air. He waved his hands to brush away some of the dust clouds only to find Beatriz lying on the ground.

“Bea!” Luke rushed to her side. He slung her arm onto his shoulder. “What happened?”

Beatriz coughed and gasped. “Fuck... Pocket... Vultures...!”

Luke’s eyes widened. Pocket Vultures?! He hated those. Pocket Vultures were small but terrible creatures. As much as they were miniscule, their claws were known to cleave right through metal and even through human bone. He glanced around and supported Beatriz’s weight on his shoulder. His eyes darted around. His ears perked up when he heard squawking. Shrieking and small twittering noises filled his ears despite the howls and cheers of the crowd. Suddenly, all of Beatriz’s weight slammed down on his shoulders. Beatriz growled in pain as he staggered on one knee.

“Whoa!” Luke yelped.

As the two staggered down on the ground, Luke winced at the sand burning against his knee. He hissed in pain when he glanced at Beatriz. She growled in pain and gripped a fistful of hot sand. Luke glanced back when he saw a group of Pocket Vultures surrounding them with a mocking chitter. His eyes widened when he saw their bloodthirsty gazes and their blood dipped beaks. Luke forced down a lump when he saw Beatriz’s calf have a large gaping hole in it.

“Fucking bastards ate through my leg,” Beatriz snarled. She glared at them with her ice blue eyes. “If only I still didn’t have these fucking,” she slammed the Lumina stone shackles on the ground. “Lumina shackles on!”

Luke bit his lower lip. She was right; as long as she had those Lumina Shackles on, her magic was useless. The only thing she could go for was physical attacks. She had to fight with brute force. He quickly searched around only see more Pocket Vultures surrounding them.

“Tch, we don’t have time for this!” Luke hauled Beatriz up to her feet with a grunt. “Can you at least sense where your weapon is!?”

Beatriz coughed. “… I’ll try. Can… you cover me?”

Luke glanced at the Pocket Vultures and nodded stiffly. “I’ll do what I can.”

The Pocket Vultures screeched and lunged at him. He yelped and jumped out of the way while dragging Beatriz, making sure they didn’t get killed. He leapt over the Alpha Pocket Vulture with Beatriz in tow with a wince. He never had to drag anyone around like this! He berated himself inwardly. Why didn’t he start lifting weights? He could easily drag her if…

If he did it.

The “it” was something Brandon and he avoided no matter what happened. He only swore to use it if nobody could see it. A sigh escaped his lips; what a predicament!

“Sorry, Cap,” Luke shook his head. He closed his eyes and let the mana flow. It was then that his skin started to change from flesh into a more woody-like texture. His eyes glowed a brighter gold and rose quartz colour and his hair became leafy in form. “I’m going to have to break the promise I made to you.”

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