Chance - Always Avoid a Rematch
“Have you received it?” Dylan asked me excitedly. A sly grin was on his boyish face. It was a rare thing to see his eyes glinting. I almost laughed at his lack of composure. “I’m sure you’ll be the first one to get it.”
“Yeah. I did.” I replied. Then I checked at my side to see a curious look coming from Anya. Although it was typical of her to give is silent stares. “I can’t show it to you guys yet. Sorry. I promised my dad.”
“That’s okay.” Dylan assured me with a goofy grin. “We’ll see each other in the Black Daze fair anyway.”
Anya shifted uncomfortably in her seat and started fidgeting with her phone.
“What’s up with the two of you?” I asked.
“Nothing!” Dylan snapped, but there was a slight blush on his face. My eyes narrowed at his sudden lie. “Where’s Jaden and Caitlyn anyway? It’s not like them to miss out our lunch period. Even Ven is not around lately.”
“Yeah.” I agreed. I looked around. But there was just a bunch of noisy bully students like Eric Coulson and Miles Scott. Both of them were pretty terrible people that would try to mess with us every once in a while. “That is kind of weird.”
“Don’t forget it’s someone’s very important day tomorrow.” Dylan said. Then Anya took out a small gift from her pocket. She was sort of bragging it that she already had a present for Jaden. “He’ll be turning fourteen tomorrow.”
“Right. He would be sulking for weeks if we forgot about it.” I chuckled. It dawned on me that I didn’t have anything yet for him. What’s worse is he’ll be furious at me because I totally forgot about it. “Remember a couple of years ago that we pulled off a surprise for him? He was so mad because he thought no one remembered!”
The three of us laughed at the memory. We were still sixth-graders back then, and Jaden was about to cry before we pulled off the surprise. He was very sensitive when it comes to his birthday. It was probably because it was also his birthday when they learned that his dad was cheating on his mother.
Jaden was always determined to only make happy memories for his birthdays since then. It was one of the things that he opened up to me.
I just felt terrible that it had utterly eluded my mind. It was going to be a big fight if I didn’t get him at least something. That needy best friend of mine can be such a douche when it comes to birthdays. But it was quite understandable.
“Do you know what’s up with him lately?” Dylan suddenly asked. Even Anya gave me a downbeat look. Fully intent on listening if I had any idea of what’s really happening. I was almost caught off guard. “I’m kind of worried.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“He’s more aloof than usual. I’ve never seen Jaden drowning in his own thoughts before.” Dylan replied. And it had hurt me to hear Jaden being described that way. It was clearly not the person we enjoy being with. “He’s barely making any jokes. Even Caitlyn is worried about him. It’s like Jaden turned from an extrovert into an introvert in a snap of a finger.”
“Are you sure you’re not a psychologist?” I chuckled. But Dylan slightly shook his head. Even Anya frowned at me for taking it as a joke. Both of them were quite serious about it. “Fine. I’m sorry. I thought I could lighten things up.”
“Jaden is bothered by something.” Anya softly chirped. Her emerald eyes spoke volumes about it. Dylan and I were surprised that she would express it verbally. Both of them were incredibly anxious.
“I really thought it was just a bad day or something. Looks like it’s already getting out of hand.” I explained. Anya just looked at me like I was a hypocrite. “But if it’s already worrisome, then I’ll try to talk to him. Maybe I could sort things out for Jaden.”
“Thanks, Chance. You’re the person who knows him the most.” Dylan smiled warmly. It was followed by a reassuring clap on my shoulder. “Don’t forget, I’m always here for either of you. For everyone. And don’t forget to give him something cool.”
“I’ll surely do that.” I grinned.
We went forth to eat our lunch. After a few minutes, the bell rang. The rest of the day zipped away. Jaden, Ven, and I were together during our last subject. As Dylan mentioned, Jaden was indeed silent and aloof. Ven, on the other hand, was playing along as if nothing happened. I tried to talk to the blonde boy, but he was pretty evasive.
After the last period, they just vanished before I could catch up to them. I quickly strolled through the hallways and see if I would be able to catch them. But Jaden wasn’t in his locker. Neither was available. It was weird because Jaden was nowhere to be found after walking around. And so was Ven. Celine was probably with her boyfriend again, so I didn’t attempt to give her a call.
I was able to catch a glimpse of Anya and Dylan while in the hallways. But neither of them saw Jaden nor Ven. They haven’t seen Caitlyn either. We just wondered where those three had gone off to.
“I’ll make sure to call you if I ever see any of them.” Dylan assured me.
Since I didn’t have any choice, I decided to walk home by myself. But before I even got to stroll down the road for a hundred meters, I already saw a familiar face standing in the distance. To make things worse, he was waiting for me to pass by.
It was none other than the man who choked the neck of my best friend the first time we met. Truly unforgettable. Truly infuriating.
“We need to talk.” Rei stated. But I just passed by him and ignored the guy.
However, he ran up to me and stopped right in front of my way.
“I have nothing to say to you. So, get lost!” I snapped, then walked around him and continued my walk home.
“I know I stepped beyond my boundaries here, but please listen.” The man pleaded. “All I have ever done is to make sure that this mission is a success. And I will sacrifice everything I have to make sure the Black Sorceress stays dead.”
“Stepped beyond your boundaries? You call that stepping beyond your god damn boundaries?” I snapped. “Wrap it around your head that what you did was an attempt to violate my basic human rights. If you could do that in your world, then I don’t really care. However, I’m afraid you will get imprisoned for a long time if you do that here. And don’t you dare talk about sacrifice.”
Rei was still silent. No reply or whatsoever.
“If you’re going to sacrifice something you have, then that’s fine with me.” I grumbled on. “But leave my friends and me out of your list of goats to slaughter!”
“Please! Listen to me, Chance. Let me explain!” Rei pleaded further. But what he did was beyond horrifying. “I am well aware that you—“
“Shut it! I have no interest in your lousy excuses!” I quipped harshly. But the man remained calm. Tears had already started to well up in my eyes. And I was sure that Rei had already taken notice of it. “Do you have any idea what it did to my best friend? He’s losing his mind!”
“Again,” The man urged on. “I am so so—“
“Sorry?” I snapped. Then started to walk faster away from him. “I don’t think you have the faintest idea of what it means to be sorry.”
“Fine. I don’t need you to forgive me. What matters is Israfil is still safe inside you.” He replied as he started walking with me from behind. “But rest assured you and your friends will still be protected. You’ve already been dragged, and we still don’t know how Samael wants to play this out. Just promise me you won’t do something stupid.”
“Whatever.” I grumbled.
“And promise me you’ll take care of Israfil.” He added. “He’s all I have left.”
I was caught off guard with that. Sometimes, I would forget Rei was still a person. He was from another dimension, but he was still a person altogether. What Morsus told me before should have given me an idea that he, too, knew what it felt like to lose someone.
He’s all I have left.
It resonated with me. More than I could ever admit.
The thought of protecting my loved ones put a heavy toll on a kid like me. I decided to call Jaden, but he didn’t answer. I was directed to his voicemail, so I opted to leave a message for him. [Hey dummy. Call me when you get this.]
I started walking towards home again. When I put back my phone in my pocket, I noticed Morsus crossing the street to meet me. He looked a bit more relaxed compared to the last time I saw him. His strawberry blonde hair was messy as usual.
“Are you sure you want to be seen with me?” I asked. But based on his poker face, he wasn’t anxious at all. “Rei might question your loyalty or something.”
“Just walk with me.” He admonished. His brat-like voice was featured. “Rei may have control over Israfil’s situation, but he knows I won’t play by the rules all the time.”
“Okay. Fine. I get it.” I replied. Then we turned around at the corner that directs away from home. My brows raised at where he was leading me. But I didn’t have any plans to antagonize him yet. “He doesn’t really look like he’s in control of the situation. We don’t know where our enemies are or how they will attack. And then we don’t know how to awaken Israfil for good!”
“He’s more aware of what’s happening than what you think he is. I know you’re angry with him, and he seemed to keep stepping on the wrong foot every time he would attempt not to antagonize you. But his heart is in the right place.” The boy replied. He brushed his hair out of his face that seemed to irritate him. “Rei is not always around because he’s constantly on the move throughout Altimereaea. He should be heading to the Empire of Shintotsukawa. It’s in the Isvardian Continent, and he was able to gain diplomatic immunity thanks to the Qirian Council. I heard he got some good intel on Teios Kyr’s next move.”
“And what about Israfil?” I asked.
“He has already resigned to let things happen naturally.” Morsus frowned. I noticed that he momentarily clenched his fist. “I had to talk him down because what he planned to do with Estelle was wrong. He’ll stick to the original plan in terms of awakening Israfil.”
“Okay.” I quipped. The topic about Rei should be dropped. “What are you planning anyway? I need to meet up with Jaden.”
“Do you want a test drive?” Morsus asked. His tone sounded so innocent but straight-forward. Almost like dropping facts. “We can try somewhere with no people. I think the place where I introduced you to my friend would be a safe zone. Not even Ven knows about it.”
“What do you mean by that?” I replied with a question. But there was a pause as we walked down the street. He was in some sort of deep contemplation. Yet no conclusive response was given. “Hey!”
“Your new powers.” The little boy replied.
I fell silent after he said that. It was true. I still didn’t know the extent of what was given to me by that mysterious being inside Morsus. Whatever it was, its presence had always left me shaken.
“I assume that you will be able to help me access it since you have the same thing on your palm.” I said. Then I inspected my palm curiously. With a little bit of avroi, the mark appeared at the center of it. My hand suddenly felt heavy with the power that my body started to tremble. “This thing. It scares me.”
“Wrong.” He quipped. “I honestly don’t know what kind of powers you have been given. That thing gave me access to monstrous amounts of avroi to give me several spells at my disposal. But yours seem to have a different function.”
“How could you tell?” I asked.
“I can check it for you if you want. Let me take a look at it.” He urged. Then he held my hand and brought it between us. Our palms we side to side with each other, both marks were exposed. Both had the same specific mysterious alphabet in our palms. Morsus closed his eyes, and his fingers moved to draw some sort of his glyphs as he cast a spell. “Alithimateia!”
He opened his right eye that suddenly turned into silvery white. His sclera was sort of glowing, but his iris and pupils had a brighter light. The avroi inside the mark was urging to explode. It felt so heavy as if a dam was able to collapse.
After a few seconds, Morsus’s eye returned to normal.
“What you did was freaky and amazing.” I commended. The boy motioned us to keep walking further. There were some people around checking us out. Probably wondering why a couple of boys stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to look at their palms. “But, I hope it gave you some answers.”
“It had the same avroi signature. Everything was the same.” He replied. His face was frowning slightly. Almost like a spoiled, angry kid who didn’t get his way. It was sort of funny to look at, but I wasn’t about to pop the chance to see his less aggressive side. “But I could tell that the way it affects your body was different than mine.”
“But it’s the same mark.” I pointed out. The mysterious mark was starting to freak me out. My imagination was getting the best of me. And that last thing I wanted was to turn into a giant housefly when I’m sleeping. Of course, that was an impossible thought. “There shouldn’t be much of a difference when it’s put in use, right?”
“Wrong again!” The boy hissed. “For a person who is the vessel for someone as honorable and heroic as Israfil, you’re a huge disappointment. My dog could have done better critical thinking than that.”
I just rolled my eyes at his snarky comments.
“It’s just the same on the outside because the main inscription of a magical formula that holds the mark altogether. Think of it as a signature that binds the contract and puts it into play.” The boy started explaining. But his mood was icy and calculating. “However, just because you put in the same signature doesn’t mean that it pertains to the very same contract.”
The two of us just kept walking. And the direction was the abandoned place where the mark was given. I was already decided to play along with Morsus. And I am more than curious to know what the power upholds.
“That mark on your palm is just the doorway of its true powers. It extends inside your arms then to your shoulder. And then it chains itself to your heart before it is embedded to your core, which is the main source of our avroi.” Morsus started explaining. He was like a mini-professor as he did so. “The inscription of magical formula in those chains is different compared to mine. After I was able to get my mark, I scanned it right away to see. That means it would create a different effect compared to mine.”
“What does it do then?” I asked.
“Not entirely sure.” He concluded. “The inscriptions used for the formula don’t have an Altimereaean origin. I can only assume that it’s coming from a different dimension. There are books about it in some of the libraries of Solus Magus. But I don’t have the clearance to access those.”
“For a smug brat like you, I think you’re as much of a disappointment as me.” I groaned. It was a joke, but I was not sure if he was going to take it seriously. Morsus seemed like the type of kid without any sense of humor. “I was actually anticipating that you have some answers.”
“That’s why I told you that we need to test it to be sure. Do you really think I would completely trust that being inside of me?” Morsus objected. His high pitched voice was almost a growl. “I will make sure that Israfil’s soul will be well-looked for, and things like these aren’t necessarily safe. They’re for drastic measures!”
“But still, what you’re demanding isn’t necessarily safe.” I said. We were already in the abandoned spot. “Ven isn’t here to stop us. We might seriously hurt each other this time.”
“Are you afraid a small kid will beat your ass this time?” The boy gloated. I found it even more irritating that he was able to say that with a poker face. “I would have beaten you if Ven didn’t intervene.”
“Not one bit.” I grinned.
Both of us were in the middle of an abandoned field.
“Apallatherosi!” Morsus commanded. He raised his palm, and the mysterious mark appeared. Slowly, some sort of writings slithered from within the marking and crawled all over his arm. The boy was a shirt, so I got to see it extend up to under his sleeves. “Now, try it.”
“Apallatherosi!” I chanted. The spell smoothly rolled off my tongue even if it was the first time I heard it. It was as if some dormant knowledge within me helped me activate it. Then my hand started to shake. Avroi suddenly rushed coming from the mark, and the next thing I knew was that half of my body was covered in tattoo. I gawked at the denser markings that wrapped my whole arms. “What the hell?”
“Interesting.” Morsus scoffed. Then he started drawing some glyphs in the air and fired a barrage of spells. “Exaclismus. Roie. Petra Estimatia.”
His arms wove like a delicate dance as water suddenly was drawn from the grass around him. They immediately dried up and died. It gathered into a pool of floating water than acted as a mirror before it turned into ice. Morsus promptly made a makeshift mirror out of natural resources. Then I saw myself in the mirror.
The markings extended up to my neck area. I even peeked inside my shirt to see the markings extended to my upper core area and my chest. There were numerous tiny writings on it, but my skin was so covered with it. I could barely see my flesh. Yet the thing that shocked me the most was my right eye. The sclera had turned black, and my right eye was a demonic hue of red. My pupil even turned into slit like a snake’s.
“Holy crap.” I gasped. Then Morsus snapped his finger, and the frozen mirror turned back into its liquid form before splashing onto the ground. His gaze never left me. The boy chanted the same spell, and one of his eyes started to glow silver. “I don’t think this is Israfil’s power anymore!”
“I’ll come at you!” Morsus declared. Then he lifted his hand to draw a quick spell. “Rych Rohibius!”
The next thing I saw was he blinked right in front of me with his fist closed and ready to punch me. My reflex kicked in, and tried to catch the incoming blow from his fist. Since his hand was pretty smaller, it connected comfortably.
“Astra Ecruenti!” The boy chanted. As soon as his punch connected with my palm, there was a small explosion in my hands. Sparks blasted everywhere. But I didn’t feel pain at all, so I immediately gripped his hand and threw him away. Morsus was just as surprised as I was, though. The boy wasn’t all that heavy, but I would never have the physical capacity to throw him beyond a dozen feet! And to do it with one arm was just beyond surprising. Yet before he could be thrown so far away, he had his next spell ready. “Aneodragmus!”
Morsus suddenly jolted from one spot in the air to the next location. He kept landing from one invisible wall to another like a ball bouncing inside a small dome. I tried to have him within my sights, but he was moving around so fast. He would even taunt me by landing just right behind me. I tried to swing my arm at him to my defense, but he was too damn fast. The spell he used last time helped him move at blinding speeds gave him the advantage just like last time.
Then he landed at least thirty meters behind me with a hand raised. I turned around to see him already finished casting his glyphs.
“Zematisima!” The boy chanted, and some sort of symbol around the area suddenly sparked into bright lights that blazed into massive flames. They were placed on the spots he landed. I looked around to see dozens of fireballs surrounded me like an enclosed dome. Very similar to the tactic I used in our last fight. “Chreosa Arpagia!”
All the flames charged simultaneously towards me. What’s worse was that it slowly heated up further, and the red-orange flames blazed into blue ones. Before I could react, Morsus snapped his fingers. “Alysidio Schimatimo!”
Black chains were suddenly wrapped around my arms and body, coming from the spot he landed before. It was not to taunt me but to plant another spell only to be activated at the very last second. I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening. Morsus was right. He could have defeated me if he really wanted to.
The boy was trained to be one of the most powerful kinds of mages in all of Altimeraea. He could move around fast. Then he could delay the activation of offensive spells while preparing a snare so the target wouldn’t be able to move. He had the mobility, the disabling ability, and the firepower to blast the enemy into oblivion. And he was doing all that to test my newfound power.
A sharp pain was emitted by my mark, and a spell was whispered to my ear. I felt my body was charged up with so much energy that continuous amplified as the dozens of giant fireballs were about to toast me into burnt meat. It felt like I was lifting a 400-pound bag, and my whole body was tensed from carrying the load.
In my head, I let go of the bag. All the tension went loose. And a powerful blast of avroi erupted inside of me. It created a repulsive force that blasted away the chains along with giant balls of flames. They have all been swept away, and a reversal of trajectory happened.
Morsus disabled the spell before it ignited the whole neighborhood. In one snap of a finger, all the flames dissipated in mid-air.
Meanwhile, I was on my knees and gasping for air. The boy approached me as I slowly stood up and looked at him with an annoyed face. “You almost killed me!”
“I could disable that magic at the very last second if you were not able to defend yourself. But you did.” The red-head boy chuckled, but it was still more of a gloat. “Congrats. Our little baby is learning to walk on his own.”
“I still don’t know why we had to do that.” I huffed. Morsus just looked bored and exhaled silently. The markings on the right side of his body slowly shrunk. “That was overkill, damn it!”
“I needed to put you in a life or death scenario so you can intuitively use that power. The pressure is often helpful for mages to access more of their magic and use it appropriately.” Morsus explained. “But at least we learned two things. One, it gave you so much raw avroi to be able to deflect so several spells at once. Second, it also gave you superhuman durability as well as superhuman strength. That’s already a huge advantage against other mages.”
“I didn’t know you could pull so much firepower out of your ass.” I whined. It appeared that his goal was clearly met. “I almost turned into a pile of charcoal!”
“Now try to contain your power into the seal.” He admonished. His hands were on his waist, and looked as if he was going to beat me to a pulp. Even if I was a few inches taller than him. “Try to inhale and exhale properly. And make sure you won’t use it by accident. The last thing we need is Rei breathing down our necks because you used strange magic.”
I followed his instructions, which was when I noticed multiple tensed muscles on the right side of my body. As I breathed, I envisioned my avroi inside me, pushing back the darkness that subdued the right side of my body. It was like someone else was with me inside my own head, and I was trying to put it to sleep.
Slowly, my muscles relaxed. And I could see the tiny markings slowly retracting back to the center of my palm. However, it left my right arm a bit sore. Almost like the day after doing some heavy lifting in the gym. I stretched my arm and waved it around. But I just ended up wincing in pain.
“Pussy.” Morsus spat. There was a smile at the corner of his mouth.
But before I could say something, he turned his head around. Then that was when I saw Ven walking towards us. He seemed to be determined to say something.
“What on earth are you two doing?” He demanded. First was Dylan. Then it was Ven who slightly lost composure today. “I was in our house, and I practically felt the unleashing of avroi in this place. Both of you need to be careful. I actually thought you two were attacked or something.”
“Sorry mom.” I chuckled. “We’ll be cautious next time.”
Ven looked around, and I could tell he was trying to sense something. There were parts of the field that were singed with the flames Morsus threw at me. “What happened here?”
“We had a rematch.” I scoffed. “It happened pretty quickly.”
“And I won.” The boy retorted. “It was an easy win.
“You threw a ruckus just to have a rematch?” Ven shook his head. He looked like an irritated older brother. And he also looked like he was about to blast us with a lightning spell. “You two are crazy.”
“If I was in the danger of being attacked anytime, then why is it that I didn’t have more protection?” I asked. Ven’s annoyance was quickly flushed out of his face. “Not that I want to sound more demanding. It doesn’t make sense if Israfil’s intel is too crucial.”
Morsus and Ven just looked at each other. Their faces were suddenly sullen and austere. All of Morsus’ gloating vanished. Then the blond-haired boy just nodded at the other.
“Good question.” Ven just pointed out. “That’s because they didn’t really have a huge interest in you.”
“Why did he show up right away after you made contact with me? He almost tried to kill me.” I retorted. Of course, I wouldn’t forget the freaky encounter and a quick skirmish in the middle of the street. “Then there was this freak who can make me see things in my head.”
“He just wanted to test you.” Morsus replied. “After gauging you, they must have realigned their priorities.”
“Their activities had dropped significantly for the past few months. But they will try to show a bit of movement every now and then just to let the Council know that they are still out there.” Ventus explained. “From the looks of it, they are still a threat. Israfil’s existence still is, too. But Samael must have obtained a crucial milestone for their plans. All their movements point to their confidence.”
“But the presence of Abraxas and his Night Dwellers in the nearby towns would have meant something.” Morsus suggested. Ven and I nonchalantly took note of his observation. “And that something would include bad news.”
“There are also rumors that they are building small camps all over the state, but we still haven’t pinned them down. No conclusive evidence had shown it.” Ven added. Then he motioned us to start walking home. “
“Because they have an interest in this place.” I concluded.
The three of us fell silent.
“That means they are still interested in Chance.” Morsus pointed out.
“If they want to take out Israfil, then they could have killed me by now. No offense but you have been indirectly telling me all this time that this enemy is beyond more than what you guys can handle.” I stated. Coldly I might add. It seemed to upset Ven a little bit, though. “That means that they want Israfil alive, too.”
“How could we have missed that?” Ven gulped.
“He is right.” Morsus said bitterly. “Shit!”
“And when we found you, we led them straight to you.” Ven echoed. His face was trying not to contort itself from his frustration. “Rei was so pressured to revive Israfil as soon as he can. And he was just heading to what Samael really wanted.”
“He needs to know about this.” I said. “Rei is not one of my favorite people, but Morsus is right. He was doing it for us.”
“We are too late.” Morsus objected. “Rei just left for Shintotsukawa.”
“That’s it. I’ve had it!” Ven almost growled. And he really sounded pissed. “We are going rogue. But we’re going somewhere else.”
“What are you planning?” I asked.
“I was able to hear the specific coordinates for the Qirian Council’s meeting place. And I have a good idea which days they discussed the movements of Teios Kyr. I already took notice of their meeting days when Israfil and Rei’s father was still alive.” Ven started explaining. “We’ll need to infiltrate the Citadel of Jeonnan in Shintotsukawa. And Morsus, we’ll need you to access the Room of Hoshi’therrosi. And then we’ll try to know what the Council knows!”
“Do you know what you’re even talking about, Ven?” Morsus jeered. “You are talking about treason against the Council! And you’re making me violate one of the Ordinances of Solus Magus! We could be imprisoned!”
Ven took a deep breath. “So be it.”