Criterion Effect: Norok Chronicles - In Search of Titan's Wings

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Chapter 2

Sublocation - Elite Academy, Elemental Wings

Innerlocation – Main Arena

The day of the biggest tournament of the Academy’s academic year had finally arrived and everyone, especially the fighters, were revved up and ready for the event. Due to the unusually high amount of participants, there was an actual chance the tournament would take up the entire three day weekend but it wasn’t completely unexpected considering how historical this year’s tournament. Making his way to the arena, Eagle had one thought that spoke louder to him than the rest, I can’t wait until this is over. Not waiting to deal with the overwhelming crowd of guest, the Human decided to take the easiest way in, the back door, often referred to as the player’s entrance. Walking through the halls, he encountered ka after ka, many of whom where in the tournament and wish them luck as he walked past them. Just as he thought the way to the battlefield would never end, he came across Year IVs Yoshio Sanjuro, Sunchina Aya, and Kurara Yukari talking amongst themselves, preparing for the battles to come. “Morning you three,” Eagle said, stopping in front of the three young kas.

They stopped what they were doing, turned to the Human Kouchou, and bowed. “Morning Kouchou Rei,” they said in unison.

“No need to be formal here,” Eagle insisted, waving his hand. Watching them relax, he continued. “Are you ready for this?”

“More than ready,” Yoshio boasted.

“Well I know you’re ready,” Eagle said with a laugh, patting the young Elvenkai on the shoulder. “You look forward to this event every year. I was asking Kurara and Sunchina. See, unlike you Yoshio, these two actually focus on their studies.”

Everyone but Yoshio laughed. “We’ve all been looking forward to this,” Sunchina replied. “But I won’t lie, it has been challenging with the studies and extracurricular activities.”

“I’m actually impressed how Kurara here has kept her grades up while she put in more time at the dojo,” Eagle complemented. “I’m very interest in seeing how this tournament is going to turn out.” Before the three could respond, Eagle’s BracerTech vibrated. “Well I would love to catch up but I need to go.”

“We understand Sir,” Kurara said with a smile, looking at her friends.

“Good luck you three,” Eagle said encouraging. With a nod, he turned and continued his way towards the battle floor. On the way, he encountered more kas and wished them luck. Walking through the automatic double doors that led to the battle floor, he was greeted by the sight of a full arena.

Stopping in the center of the floor, Eagle completed a three hundred and sixty degree circle, settling as he spotted the Elvenkai King of Divergence Wings. Smiling, he unclipped the microphone on his belt and raised it up to his lips, “Ladies and Gentlemen. Kas and Staff of Elite Academy. Esteemed Guest. Welcome to the First Aceon, the One Millionth Annual Inner-Class Tournament!” the crowd cheered as he spoke, excited to get the long awaited tournament under way. As he completed another three hundred and sixty degree circle, still overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd, he continued, “Because of this very special and historical event, we’ve pulled out all the stops. Now, without further ado, let the tournament begin!” the jam packed arena erupted with applauds, eager for the first match to start.

While he turned off his microphone and made his way off the field, a confident, playful voice boomed over the speakers, “Thank you Kouchou Eagle Rei and Helllllooooooo Elite Academy! How are you all doing? My name is Dawn Hinoka and I’ll be your primary commentator for this very special tournament.” She paused to mentally prepare herself, remembering that this is what she wanted to do ever since she was a small Genohuman child. “This year we have two very special guests. First,” the Genohuman started while the digital display screen littered around the arena switched from the Kouchou to Dawn and the female Elvenkai sitting next to her. “Please welcome the President of Operations of Battle Plateau, Daisikai Solveki.”

“Thank you Miss Hinoka,” the Elvenkai President said with a smile. “I’m glad to be here to witness this historic moment.”

“The pleasure is ours Madam President,” Dawn replied. The Genohuman waited a moment for the crowd to settle down before she introduced the next guest. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the King of Divergence Wings, King Ziad Ginta!” the crowd rose as Divergence’s version of “Hail to the King” played as a spotlight shone on the Elvenkai King to indicate to the crowd where he was. When Dawn though the crowd had acknowledged the King properly, she decided to get the crowed back to the subject at hand, the tournament.

“For the safety of our fighters as well as that of the audience, this year we’ve taken the extra precaution and are using Draconic Cosmic Orbs.” Draconic Cosmic Orbs were orbs that, when connected to a network of DCOs, created a fore field type barrier that protected its users against a wide range of harm, including high level spells to modern weapons. “Now onto the first match of this tournament! It’s comical by nature and the best way we know how to open the Inner-Class Tournament. On the black side, Year Two Li Vante and on the white side, Year Five Tsubasa,” while Dawn introduced the first two fighters of the tournament, they entered the floor on their respective sides. Right off the bat there a notable size difference between them; Li Vante was a smaller than average Genohuman while Tsubasa was a taller and more muscular than the average Aeronok. A moment later, the battle began, along with the laughter of the crowd.

NEARLY TWO AND A HALF DAYS LATER...

The long tournament came down to the final two matches, the bouts that would decide who would come in the top four spots. “Hey all! Welcome back to the final leg of this entertaining and exciting weekend. It has been one surprise after another. During the break we tallied all the points and have determined who would be fighting for the top spots. Are you ready to see who they are?”

Dawn and Daisikai got an immediate response from the roaring cheer the excited crowd gave off. The two commentators looked at each other and shook their heads. “Oh you guys can do better than that!” Daisikai said in a disappointing voice. “These are the last two matches of the tournament. So let’s try this again. Are you guys read for more?”

This time the crowd cheered so loud, Dawn though she and her Elvenkai counterpart would go deaf. “Now that’s more like it,” the Genohuman said with a smile. “Welcome to the first of the two final fights. The fight that’ll decide who gets third and who goes home with nothing.” She paused to adopt a more serious tone, “In the black corner, making it to this point with little to no trouble, Year Six Ryoko Izumi!”

The crowd cheered as the commentators shared small details about Ryoko as she made her way to her end of the battle circle. When she reached her side, Dawn introduced her opponent. “In the white corner, surprising everyone she fought as well as the staff, Year Four Kurara Yukari!” the Genohuman smiled and waved as she exited the double doors and made her way to her end of the battle circle. Once the referee was done explain the rules, the girls walked around the center battle circle once, and tapped their weapons twice as they passed each other; once as they approached and once as they passed.

Being an Elvenkai, Ryoko was more than confident in everything she did. Wielding a bo-staff with a grace rarely seen with such a weapon at her age, it was easy to see why she was one of the top fighters in her class. She rarely faced a challenge in or out of tournaments she didn’t overcome. Smiling, she moved her hair out of her face as he set up a defensive posture.

Kurara on the other hand was the exact opposite of her opponent. Her classmates think of her as a klutz and kept up that ruse except in battle. Tournaments were her some of her favorite time because it was a chance to bring out here dual bokkens. Taking note of her opponent’s posture, Kurara brushed her blue hair off her shoulders, drew her bokkens from their sheaths on her back, one on each shoulder, and adopted an attack posture.

The moment the start bell dinged, Kurara took the initiative, making her first attack to the Elvenkai’s head. Ryoko deflected her attack and using the bottom of her staff, made an attempt at her legs. Sensing the move, Kurara used her other sword to block it, and in the same motion, spun around while her opponent started a downward slash. Finishing her spin, Kurara formed an “X” with her bokkens in order to counter the slash.

Before she could do anything, Ryoko felt a sharp pain in her stomach, and found herself on the floor. It took her a moment to realize what had happened; the damn Genohuman had kicked her.

Smiling that she had managed to land the first hit of the match, Kurara wasn’t silly enough to let her guard down. She knew her opponent wasn’t to be taken lightly and would make it that much harder for her to win.

Up until this point, Ryoko hadn’t had much of challenge. Sure she wasn’t in the bout for first and second but this suited her just fine. All she had to do was win and from what she heard about her Genohuman opponent, she was surprised and impressed that she made it this far. After that first hit, she decided to play smart. Grabbing her staff as she got up, she noticed her opponent was still in an attack posture. In response, she once again settled in a defensive posture.

Guessing the female Elvenkai wasn’t going to attack, Kurara rushed in. The moment she did, Ryoko started coming at her with her “fancy” twirling. Without warning, her opponent slashed for her head. Knowing she didn’t have time to block the attack, Kurara dropped to a sliding position and slid past the Elvenkai, successfully dodging the attack at the last possible second. In one fluid motion, Kurara stopped, propped up, turned around, and threw the bokken in her right hand at Ryoko’s legs.

Hearing an odd sound, Ryoko turned around to see a bokken coming right towards her, and in the nick of time, she jumped out of its way. Landing, she looked to see where the Genohuman way and saw Kurara rushing her, ready to strike.

Before her opponent had a chance to counter, Kurara struck her in the stomach causing the Elvenkai to fall to her knees then the floor. Stopping a just past her fallen opponent, Kurara turned around, backed off, and waited for Ryoko to get up.

Meanwhile, the crowd of kas, staff, and visitors were on the edge of their seats while the commentators went off about that fight and waiting exactly to see what would happen next. All were astonished that a year four ka had an overwhelming advantage over a year six ka. Seeing her Genohuman opponent take up a defensive posture, Ryoko picked up her staff once more and thought to herself, I have to hit this girl! Coming up with a partial plan, she settled in to an attack posture. Fixated on each other, both girls tightened their grips on their weapons. Feeling her hand twitch, Ryoko rushed in for a head shot.

Kurara ducked just as Ryoko started to swing, turning clockwise as she did. Completing a three hundred and sixty degree turn, Kurara did a sweeping kick, causing the Elvenkai to fall sideways. Using the speed she had gained through rigorous years of training, she sprung up, and side kicked the Elvenkai in the stomach, causing Ryoko to fly five meters away from her.

While Ryoko laid on the floor not moving, the referee rushed over and started to count. Ten seconds later, he declared Ryoko down and out for the count, and Kurara the winner. The crowd, still completely shock that a year four managed to show up a year six with little effort, erupted in applause.

“In a complete and total upset, Year Four Kurara Yukari is the winner, placing third,” Dawn announced, barely able to believe what she just witnessed. She knew Ryoko personally and this was the first time she had seen her so utterly defeated.

After a moment of not knowing what to say, Daisikai picked up the ball and as she trailed off, the combat medics tended to the unconscious Elvenkai, Kurara made her way to the fighter’s entrance to the floor. Before she could even get a full foot in the door, Sunchina tackle-hugged her, “That was an awesome fight little Hime. I am so proud of you!”

Doing her best not to get smothered by her best friend’s hug, Kurara managed to escape only to fall into the arms of Trip. “Best fighter in the academy,” Trip complemented, meaning every word. “How does it feel to beat the notorious Ryoko Izumi?”

“A lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” Kurara admitted, returning the hug.

Feeling a tap on her shoulder, Kurara turned around to find Yoshio, “Be that as it may, you did an excellent job and proved a lot of your fellow ka wrong. Congratulations.” Kurara blushed as she broke Trip’s hug, blushed, and hugged Yoshio in return. “Told ya we would keep the team together.”

While Dawn and Daisikai started talking again, the main lights of the arena turned off, leaving only the red emergency lights along the steps and doorways on. “Ladies and gentlemen, kas and staff of Elite Academy, guest of all ages, the long wait is finally over. The moment you’ve all been waiting for,” Dawn paused for effect to let the tension mount, something she had picked up from her years of schooling. “The final battle of this historic tournament!” As the crowds started to quiet in anticipation for the names of the last two fighters, Eagle arrived in the VIP Viewing Box that was reserved for only the most important guest, and in this case King Ziad Ginta and Grand Deikai Aion Pastel. While the three exchanged pleasantries again, Dawn began the introduction the fighters.

“On the white side, the current male champion of Eagle Academy, officially and unofficially undefeated. Please give a warm welcome for Year Four Yoshio Sanjuro!”

Finishing their hug, Yoshio rubbed Kurara’s head, messing up her hair, put on his custom designed shades, and made his way on the battle floor. Reaching the door, Kurara blushed again and in an over the top girly voice, shouted, “GOOD LUCK YOSHIO!” Yoshio couldn’t help but smile as he opened the double doors that led to the battle floor. Passing through the doors, a spotlight shone on him followed by the sound of applause and cheering. At the same time, Sunchina cleared her throat and she and Trip gave Kurara a weird look. “What?” Kurara asked, not sure what the issue was.

Before Sunchina or Trip could answer, Dawn started to introduce Sunchina. “On the black side, the fastest raising swordswoman in the history of Elite Academy, also officially and unofficially undefeated, Year Four Sunchina Aya!” Messing up Kurara’s hair further, Sunchina put on her custom designed shades, waved to Kurara and Trip, then walked through the double doors. Ignoring everything else, she looked towards Yoshio at the center of the floor. Reaching her side of the circle, she stopped and smiled at the male Elvenkai across from her. Without warning, the referee appeared out of nowhere and went over the rules one more time; no time limit and the first one who gives up or can no longer continue loses. With a nod from the two Elvenkai, the referee stepped off to the side, and the Elvenkai summoned their weapons from the storage jewel on their belts. A moment later, the two tapped their bokkens twice as they walked past each other, turned around, and prepared for the match with the referee in the middle.

“Hey Yosh,” Sunchina whispered in comparison to the crowd. “Let’s give this crowd one hell of a fight.”

While Yoshio nodded in response, the referee raised his arm, signaling the two Elvenkai fighters to get ready. As swiftly as the referee’s arm came up, it came down, getting the crowd on the edge of their seats. “BEGIN!”

The referee disappeared and to the crowd’s confusion, the two Elvenkai fighters simply stood still in the same position they were in before the referee signaled the match to begin. Slowly, the two year four kas began to circle each other, only to stop a moment later. Still on the edge of their seats, a silent wave fell over the crowd, waiting to see who would make the first move.

In all the matches she and Yoshio have had, she had never made the first move and that wasn’t by mistake either. Smiling, Sunchina rushed in, catching Yoshio off guard. The look on his face was priceless to her as she went for his right side. Not to her surprise, Yoshio side stepped, deflected, and as he pushed her bokken away, he spun around.

Completing his spin, Yoshio aimed for Sunchina’s legs, which she easily blocked. Not letting the easy attack go, she followed it with three more strikes to her legs, all successfully blocked and as he completed the third strike, he went for her head.

Blocking the move, she pushed the bokken away and flipped over Yoshio. As Yoshio turned to attack, she landed and back kicked the male Elvenkai in the chest. Thrown back instead of falling, Yoshio manipulated the air around him, did a backflip, and as he landed on his feet, he immediately launched into his next attack.

Impressed, Sunchina readied herself as Yoshio rushed her. His blade came towards the upper left of her head but at the last possible second, just before their bokkens connected, Yoshio pulled his back, passed over her head, and went for her legs. Just as quick as Yoshio, Sunchina caught the attack in the nick of time. A faint attack, very clever Yosh. What else do you have up your…before she could finish her thought, she felt a sharp pain in her right side, and found herself on the ground.

Surprised that he had actually managed to get a hit so early in the fight, Yoshio backed off and waited for Sunchina to get up. A few minutes later, the two found themselves at the center of the battle floor. For a brief moment, they let themselves hear the crowd, who was only getting louder and louder. Most of them were talking about how Yoshio got the first major hit. As their surrounding quieted once more, the two warriors readied their weapons. What seemed like minutes was only seconds as the two just stood there facing each other, looking for weaknesses.

Without a hint of warning, both Sunchina and Yoshio rushed to the center of the battle circle. With amazing speed and predictions, they blocked each other’s moves while at the same time trying to press their own strikes. Seconds later the two flew back and hit the energy barrier. Not skipping a beat, they got up and set up for their final attacks.

What are you two planning? The Human Kouchou thought to himself, watching the two Elvenkai intently. Surveying the crowd, he noted the volume went form a loud roar to a low hush.

Looking at Sunchina, Yoshio relaxed his posture and started towards the center of the floor. Reaching the outside of circle, he waited.

Something was gnawing at the back of her mind as exhaustion, coupled with impatience set in. Fed up, Sunchina rushed in and readied her bokken for a slash combination. It started to bother her that Yoshio hadn’t done anything was she rapidly approached him. Just before she came into striking range, Yoshio jumped, preformed a twist flip over her head and before she could do anything, he landed, and sweep kicked her legs, causing her to fall sideways. Falling, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach, causing her to fly backwards.

Yoshio had managed to stand up and punch Sunchina in the stomach. He used the energy of his surrounding to make the effects of the punch much bigger.

After a brief moment of flying, Sunchina felt a heavy pain in her back passed out as she fell to the ground.

The moment she hit the ground, the referee rushed over to check to see if Sunchina was able to fight. Before he even had a chance to declare Yoshio the winner, the crowd was on its feet cheer Yoshio’s name and applauding louder than it was at the beginning of the tournament. While Yoshio and the referee helped Sunchina to her feet, Dawn did her thing, “Ladies and gentlemen, after what can only be described as a very intense and intimate battle between these two elite warriors, Yoshio Sanjuro emerges victorious!” Dawn paused as she received a piece paper from her supervisor. A look of disbelief conquered her face and she handed it off to Daisikai. “This has just been confirmed. For the first time in this tournament’s one million year history, first, second, and third places go to Year Four kas.”

The last bit of information caught the Elvenkai King off guard and turned to Eagle, who nodded, confirming what Dawn just said. Beyond impressed, Ziad stood up and clapped along with the crowd. The Human on the other hand simply leaned back and smiled, more exited with the results of the tournament than anything else.

The female Human Grand Deikai nodded her head as her vibrant violet eyes stared at the three Year Four kas. “They were very impressive Eagle,” Aion said as she brushed her white hair behind her ear. “Everything you said they would be. I look forward to meeting them after this mission.”

“Thank you Deikai,” Eagle replied, as he couldn’t help but feel a little pride, “I’ll pass the word along to them.” The female nodded in response and looked back to the arena floor.

As the crowd applauded once more, Kurara joined Yoshio and Sunchina on the floor to receive their medals and trophies. After appealing to the crowd for a several more moments, they headed off the floor.

o0o

In the midst of the over deafening crowd a figure cloaked in black seamlessly blended into the background, not even his face was visible. While the three fighters exited the floor, the figure stood up, exited his row, and made his way to the top of the stairs. As he reached the top step, a black bird with navy blue pearls on its wings flew off the rafters towards the figure. Its crest was a combination of crimson red and navy blue and around its neck was a pendant in the shape of a crimson red cross tilted at an angle with an archaic symbol at its center. Landing on the figure’s shoulder, he glanced back at the moving arena, grinned, and disappeared into the crowd of people walking past him.

o0o

Walking through the double doors of the player’s entrance to the arena floor, Yoshio, Sunchina, and Kurara were greeted by Trip, Cati, and Rin. While Kurara dealt with their three friends, Yoshio leaned Sunchina up against the wall. “How are you doing?” Yoshio asked with concern.

“Like I got hit with a sack of bricks,” Sunchina admitted, her senses slowly coming back. “Give me a minute, I’ll be ok.” A moment later she pushed off the wall and placed her hands on her hips, “See?”

No sooner had she said that, she felt a hug from behind. “Well I’m glad you’re not seriously hurt,” Kurara said, looking sharply at Yoshio.

“Well of course she’s ok silly,” Trip said. “She’s one of the toughest female fighters at this academy and she had to be in order to deal with Yoshio here.”

As everyone shared a small laugh, Sunchina smiled. “Maybe. I’ve had tougher bouts than that one and it’s not like I haven’t lost to him before,” she teased, winking at Yoshio.

“Good,” Kurara said cheerfully as she disengaged her hug and turned towards Yoshio, only to find Cati hugging him tightly.

Grinding her teeth, she went up to Yoshio, “Congrats Yoshio!” although she smiled, her eyes glared at Cati.

Cati looked tilted her head confused, “What?”

Once again leaning against the wall, Sunchina couldn’t help but laugh at Kurara’s behavior.

As Sunchina joined the group, a tall Genohuman with long combed back black hair wearing a traditional Elite Academy Fuku Kouchou uniform walked up to them. “I’m sorry to interrupt but will you three come with me,” he indicated to the three winners.

The six turned to see who was addressing them. Recognizing his face, Kurara smiled, Yoshio remained neutral, and Sunchina looked confused. “Alright. But who are you?”

“Don’t be silly Sunchina,” Kurara waved off. “This is our Fuku Kouchou, Gene Sting.”

It took a moment for the rest of the group to put the face to the name. “So you’re the one who wants to stiffen up the rules around her?” Rin asked, not at all happy with the Fuku Kouchou.

Caught off guard, Gene decided to ignore the question. “Kouchou Rei request the winners come to his office.”

Yoshio nodded and asked, “How is he doing? Did he enjoy the tournament?”

It’s always Eagle they ask about, never me, Gene thought to himself as he turned around, once again choosing to ignore the ka’s questions.

The six looked at each other confused but smiling. “Think he’s mad?” Yoshio asked, causing them to laugh even more. The six kas parted ways, with the three winners following the emotionally wounded Genohuman.


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