I was training by myself in my private exercise room. Since Alec is gone, I am officially alone. I was concerned about tomorrow. I was pretty sure that I would have to battle with probably the fiercest competitor, considering what I did to the elders in their judging chambers. No one has come by to tell me what is happening or what the plan is. Perhaps because they are afraid when I am in my training room, it is the one place that’s not warded against my abilities.
I have never felt so alone in all my life.
I continued to punch rocks into the wall like my mentor taught me when I heard the door open. When I turned, I see that women I met before my fight. She looks nervous as she wills herself to step closer to me. She was on the other side of the training floor, not daring to come any closer to me or travel farther from the exit. I smirk at her, knowing the effect I have on people.
“Gaia! I am here to announce that you are to fight in the Games tomorrow morning. I hope you are on time this time around.” She said and then quickly exited the room before I could respond.
Of course, she had to make a snarky comment before leaving. I went back to my training. I needed to prepare for any of the opponents. I probably won’t be battling another elemental, so Helios, Hera, and Galene are out. The just leaves Daimon, Muta, Sylo, and Metis.
Sylo can block my ability, so I need to concentrate on hand to hand combat, which is typical for me. Muta can shapeshift into anything, so I will need to bury her like I did to Aura or fight her in the uneven territory. I have trained with rocky terrain, so if I break the arena up, I might be able to outmaneuver or trip her and eventually end her.
Metis can read minds, so I will meditate tomorrow morning and concentrate on emptying my mind. If that doesn’t work, then I will flood my brain with images and thoughts about Alec. That kind of emotion and picture might confuse Metis, but only fighting him will definitively tell me if it works.
Daimon will be the toughest competitor for me. He didn’t show much in his battle, and all he had to do was snap his fingers. It was terrifying. The only chance I had is if I hit him with a rock the first second of the battle or tie his hands so he can’t snap his fingers.
I may die if I go up against him. I will have to prepare for my next battle to be up against him, and to do that, I need to work on my reflexes. I need to judge how fast the earth can respond to me. If I can stop him before he makes his move, then I might live to see the third round.
I went to the sparing circle and placed a dummy in the middle while I practiced my initial hits. I was quick, but tomorrow will only show if I am fast enough.
After many hours of rigorous training, the guards came in and escorted me back to my room. The silence throughout the day has been awful. I never thought I would miss hearing the word ‘again.’
I missed Alec’s voice and strategizing with him. He was terrific at it. He would have helped me worked out on how to win the next game. Now I can only rely on myself, and time will only tell if it is enough.
The next morning came sooner than I would have liked. This time I woke up early to meditate and get ready for the Games. After all that nonsense, I was ready. The guards came knocking on my door shortly after my meditation session. We walked an unfamiliar road until we stop in front of the large doors that lead the way into the arena. “I thought I was meeting with that rude lady,” I said to one of my guards, who did nothing but stare at the door.
“Oh, you are, just not in the room before. The elders thought that you wouldn’t need to be debriefed, so you will wait here until the doors open. Then you will walk out to the line and wait until you hear start. Understood?” The rude lady said, who popped out of nowhere. I didn’t even hear her coming. She then spun on her heels and walked away, the clacking noise echoing down the hall. I still have no idea what her name is; she never introduced herself.
I stood there in between my guards, waiting for the doors to open. It felt like an eternity. What made it worse is the guards kept giving me glares, which isn’t new, but they had a slight glint in their eyes. It seemed like they were excited to see me die, which is not unlikely.
Then after an immeasurable amount of time, the large doors opened. The anxiety I felt the first time hit me as I stepped through those doors. I felt my feet glued to the floor, and I didn’t want to move. I knew I had it in me to kill, but it never felt right and especially not someone that doesn’t deserve it. Whoever was on the other side did not deserve to die today. The elders, on the other hand, deserve to die, horrible deaths.
The guards pushed me forward, taking my cue, I start walking the hallway towards the light. I only needed to win this round, then another two battles before I win the Game of Life. I reached the arena, and it is the same as it always has been, hard, smooth dirt under my feet.
Once I stepped through the threshold, I could feel the warding disappear. My natural ability spread through the earth to explore all the life teeming, waiting for a command. The dirt started to move slightly with every step I took. It wanted to grow, to flourish even in the most uninhabitable places. My instinct told me to encourage it, but I refrained, I couldn’t let the other opponents know the extent of my ability. Besides, it was against the rules to use your affinity before the word ‘Start.’ If I did, then I would automatically be disqualified and killed on the spot.
I reached my line and noticed that the person I am facing is Muta. The silver-haired girl was dressed in stretchy material like during her last fight. I was surprised that the elders had me meet her. She would not be an easy fight, but I already had a plan and a contingency plan if things go south. She looked like she was ready for this, but for me, on the inside, I was feeling uneasy. Although I put on a brave face, I was dreading the next couple of minutes.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second round of the games! Today we have Gaia and Muta. Gaia, whose ability is earth is facing our silvered haired fox that can shapeshift. This is going to be an interesting fight. If our fighters are ready, we can begin in 3… 2…. START!” Elder Kakios yelled out from his balcony seat.
The second he yelled start, Muta started to run at me, shifting into a wolf. Her paws pounded the ground as she rushed me. I started walking towards her calmly then after about five steps, I jumped up and punched the ground. The force of my fist rippled the terrain like water, sending jagged edges of different sizes up in the arena and towards my opponent.
The silver-haired wolf skidded to a stop and flew up for a moment from being hit by a rock. Muta gracefully landed and continued her stride towards me. She was very graceful, so this may be a bit more difficult than I thought. Once the ground is uneven, I start to run around her, she was gaining on me, and I was dodging her by erupting rocks to block her path, hoping it might hit her. I wasn’t so lucky.
The initial hit of being able to feel the earth had died down. That is until I felt something peculiar that made me want to investigate further. I stopped and burying myself in the ground, blocking Muta on the surface. I could hear her scratching outside trying to get in. Fear of her shifting into something else, I moved and burrowed away, towards the middle of the arena. Once there, I stopped and searched to feel this specific life point until I found its origin.
Seeds, they were tiny seeds, and they were inside of Muta. I guess she ate some before showing up to the battle. At this time, I could hear her shifting into something that could dig to follow me into the ground. I concentrated on those little seeds, slowly being digested in my opponent’s stomach.
I felt them wanting to grow, to live, so I encouraged them. I traveled away from the middle of the arena to the edge. Giving me some distance from my opponent. Once I felt her a safe distance away, I blasted out of the ground, to find Muta as a small burrowing animal that I was unfamiliar with. She was digging a couple hundred feet away from me.
She noticed my movement and ran towards me, changing into a giant cat mid-stride. As she got closer, I urged the seeds to grow, even in an unstable environment. I visualized sunflowers blooming healthy and bright.
I closed my eyes, with my arms outstretched, I whispered: “grow.”
Once I did, I heard screaming, horrible screaming that was a mix of human and animal sounds. The floor vibrated from the weight of Muta collapsing. I quickly opened my eyes and readied my self to see Muta about to attack, but it never came. The crowd was quiet from the sight that lay before them.
The silver-haired girl had shifted back into herself, and she was lying on her back with her eyes wide open. Her mouth open with beautiful sunflowers barely budding out of it. Leaves and stems were protruding from her nose and ears, but the most disturbing part was her stomach. I had urgently willed the flowers to grow so rapidly that they made her stomach explode. The sunflowers laid across her body like a centerpiece on a table during a ceremony.
The sight was so grotesque I began to vomit. I couldn’t contain myself, and I lost all contents in my stomach. I did this to someone. It must have been a terrible, painful death. Both battles I didn’t see them die. I didn’t watch the light leave Aura’s eyes as I crushed her to death, and I didn’t witness sunflowers pop out of Muta’s body.
The crowds were screaming in my ears as I felt tears roll silently down my cheeks while vomiting my guts up. I couldn’t show fear or emotion. I needed to control myself and stop throwing up all over the arena in front of all my competitors. The Elders announced that I was the winner, and I sucked it up quickly and walked out with my head held high.
Today will mark as a terrible day for me. I wish I didn’t have to deal with this life or these games, but I never had a chance or a choice. The guards stopped me at the door and then escorted me to my private viewing room. While I walked in, I had a feeling that this is the room where I would break down over and over again.
So that is what I did, I broke down on the plush chair. This death seemed so much harder than the last. Maybe because I never really looked at Auras mangled flesh or she didn’t look like herself anymore after I crushed in her face. I could convince myself that it wasn’t me or that it wasn’t Aura, but Muta will be a nightmare of my own design. I didn’t believe that making the seeds grow would work, but out of fear, I grabbed onto anything to keep me alive. I didn’t have another choice.
I was trying to calm myself down for the next poor souls to walk into the arena. I didn’t care about who it was or who the winner is. I just wanted my bed and rest a day.