Chapter 4 - The Tournament
The day of the tournament came. Throughout the halls and in the hub, the eagerness of the students to prove themselves in combat could be heard. The whole academy would be watching and it was a chance for first years to be invited by a good team or put into a good team. Some bragged about how they worked day and night practicing their swordsmanship or casting magic until they could no longer stand. Others despaired that they didn’t practice enough or get enough sleep. It was a sight to see in the academy.
Today was the first day of the tournament. The tournament was separated into three days with the victor crowned on the third day. The tournament was starting early in the morning and students rushed to the teleport hub to get to the arena where it would take place and to find the best seats.
When I entered the arena, I sat higher up in the stands and from there, I could see packs of students pour in and fill the stands quickly. Soon, the sounds of conversation filled the arena and didn’t seem like it would die down. That was until the sound of a gong resounded. The crowds of students quickly stopped their conversations and in the silence that was formed, the voice of the headmaster could be heard.
“Welcome to day one of the tournament. First, I would like to commend you on your efforts for these past few weeks and may your hard work pay off in the end. Remember, your upperclassmen are watching . This is a great opportunity to prove yourselves so, do try your best. Learn from your peers and may your peers learn from you. I look forward to seeing what the first years are capable and, with that said, may the tournament begin.” announced the headmaster.
The gong was struck again and the students cheered and applauded.
On the arena floor, the two referees entered and in the center, one of them announced the two competitors of the first match.
On one side of the arena, a student with a long-sword entered. On the opposite side, an unarmed student. The gong was struck once again, commencing the beginning of the duel.
Immediately, the person with the long-sword started to conjure several shields which floated around him. Once he was done, he started to charge the bowman. The bowman however, threw down his bow and instead held his hands in front of him. When the long-swordsman got in range, the bowman shot a few balls of fire which melted the shields. As the long-swordsman ran, he kept trying to conjure shields as they broke but, it wasn’t fast enough. When he had no shields conjured, a ball of fire struck him in the face. However, the long-swordsman kept on running, unfazed and seemingly uninjured from the blast. Finally, he was able to get his opponent within striking distance. With a sweep of his sword, he got his opponent on the floor and pointed his sword towards their neck. The “bowman” surrendered and the fight was over.
The crowd broke into a cheer and the competitors then left the arena.
The next battles were quick but showcased the abilities of the students well. Each match left the arena floor with craters in the floor, burn marks, and broken weapons. After each match, the crowds of students cheered and the referees cleared the arena floor.
Eventually, it became my turn to fight and behind the portcullis door where I stood, there were a variety of weapons to choose from. The weapon racks here held all kinds of swords, spears, shields, and other weapons. I didn’t know how to use any of the weapons so I just shrugged and took what was closest to me, a spear.
As I waited for the gates to open, I looked at the weapons. In a different world, if I did choose to practice with a weapon, which one would I have chosen? A sword? A bow? I didn’t know. It didn’t seem like I would prefer one weapon over another. The shield however, was something that didn’t feel like I would use. The more I stared at it, the more true it became for me.
The gates opened and I started to make my way into the arena.
Whoever’s my opponent, today’s your lucky day.
The referee announced my name and the crowds...just sat in silence. No surprise there. By now, I’m sure everybody knows about me and the silence in the crowd shows.
On the other side, the portcullis opened and one of the referees announced his name.
“Dueling against Zeff is the eternum Regas.” the referee announced.
And out of the portcullis gates came a student with a sword and shield. Once he was in the arena, the crowd broke out in a chant saying, “Elzin! Elzin! Elzin!”
Regas, or I guess Elzin, waved his hands at the crowd with a smile as if enjoying the attention.
The referees motioned for both of us to walk towards the center and I did.
This was quite odd though. In the previous matches, they never did this before.
“So you must be who I’ve heard about. The one of the most hated in this academy, Zeff,” Elzin said as I approached the center of the arena.
“I am also pleased to make your acquaintance,” I said with a bow. I then held my hand for a handshake.
“I don’t know why you refuse to obey the academy, but it’s not helping anyone.”
“But it’s also not harming anyone. Wouldn’t you agree?”
He scoffed and didn’t bother to shake my hand.
The gong was then struck and I threw down my weapon.
“I forf-” I was about to say until the floor around us erupted, forming a dome, light entering only from the top.
In the arena where the headmaster sat, there was a conversation taking place as the dome in the arena floor formed.
“Should we notify the House of Primus that we may have found their missing member?”
“Not yet. That quest Elzin was last on, was he not hunting the Irredeemable, Torquere?”
“If I remember correctly, yes. Do you suspect tha-”
“It is possible. And if it is indeed true, we may need to hold off on Elzin’s catalyst.”
The figures stayed in silence, pondering, until it was broken.
“How about Zeff? What do you think of him?”
“In all my years and lives since founding this academy, I’ve only seen a few students like him. Students that refuse to awaken. How about you? Do you think he’ll bend?”
“When I saw him at his village, his eyes were filled with some light. But when he left, his eyes were near empty. Out of all the troublesome students we’ve had so far, this one may be beyond convincing.”
“If he continues down this path, he may turn out an unfortunate loss.”
“Still, I wonder where he got that knowledge. Our libraries don’t even contain that information.”
“They said you would do that,” Elzin said as he dropped his sword. “Don’t blame me for what happens next. I’m just acting as the executioner for the arbiter.”
Elzin then produced ethereal looking claws on his hands and feet and then created a wall of earth behind me. Elzin held out his arm and in a pulling motion, the wall pushed me towards him.
As the wall came closer to Elzin, he made a fist and punched me right in the stomach.
The wind was knocked out of me, leaving me gasping for air.
“Wow, you didn’t even bother escaping. You really don’t want to, I don’t know, cast magic or fight back?”
“No thanks, I’m good,” I croaked as I laid on the floor.
Elzin then kicked me in the stomach which made me roll.
“How about now?” Elzin asked, crouching in front me. “Here, I’ll let you even punch me.”
I clenched my hand in front of his face and gave him a thumbs up.
“If that’s how you want it,” Elzin said and then proceeded to create lumps of earth and shot them at me.
Elzin continued to attack me. He would kick me, punch me, bash me with his shield, or cast magic.
Each time I grimaced in pain. Blood dripped from my forehead and nose. My eyes barely open. I was heaving but, no matter what he does, I won’t give in.
“All you have to do is cast a single spell or hit me. That’s it. This’ll all stop if you do that.”
“You know...you can keep striking me all you want...to the point that it kills me. I don’t fear death, I only fear what happens after it.”
Elzin then created a boulder and held it above me.
“You don’t fear death you say? Last chance, fight back or die.”
I shook my head.
The boulder was then dropped. It was falling towards me and I didn’t flinch. Right before the boulder would crush me however, it dissipated. The dome around us also crumbled.
Whether the crowd was cheering or not, I did not know.
My eyes were slowly closing and the sounds around me were muffled.
Another dream. I was playing in the grassy field as usual, but this time, there was somebody next to me. Someone giggling as they saw my face that was in awe. As the dream got clearer, I could see her. The one who was like an older sister to me. She was talking to me but I couldn’t hear her. And before she could finish speaking, the dream ended.
When I had awoken, the tournament was already over. Elzin was the victor and the first years students were being organized into teams. I however, was in the infirmary. My head, legs, body, were bandaged. There were bruises all over and pangs of pain when I touched them. My body was sore and ached all over.
It was night when I decided to leave the infirmary and move at a pace where I could tolerate the pain. I made my way to the tree on the cliff, limping throughout the whole way.
When I finally made it to the tree, I sat down and rested my back on it. In the moonlight, the buildings of the academy were illuminated. The buildings were of fine design. Each building was distinct from each other and tall. They had a dignified look to them and showed signs of age.
What a beautiful prison.
If I had come here with a different experience, a different desire, maybe then I would have taken pride in being here.
From behind me I could hear the snarls and growls of a beast.
I got up and turned around to see a large bear with an ethereal look to it. Spirit magic. Depending on how one uses it, they could morph with the spirit of the magic beast they have a pact with, similar to what Elzin did. They could also project the spirit outwards, giving the spirit a “body” with which it can use to interact with the physical world.
The bear took a step towards me; a gust of wind blowing from its paws.
A bear that uses wind magic. I looked at the edge of the cliff and the ground below the floating island. Death by suicide or accident it would seem, or at least, what the academy will say my death was. The fact that there are no guards to come and aid me doesn’t surprise me.
Another gust of wind was blown.
So much for that reassurance I gave them. But, I didn’t...I didn’t have another choice. This was the only path I could agree with.
Another gust of wind was blown.
Pathetic. If I wanted to live I could fight back here and now. That’s what the academy wants me to do and this is my last chance to do so. So why can’t I do it?
Another gust of wind was blown. The bear was now in front of me. It opened its mouth and channeled air through it.
I see. It’s because I’m too afraid of the other path. Sorry, everyone at the village. I don’t have that courage in me.
Just before the bear could release its blast of wind, it disappeared in a flash of light. It was only for a second, but I saw a gold glowing projectile pierce it.
“Please, don’t waste that power. Your past self must have tried hard to attain it.”
I turned towards the voice and saw that it was Priscilla. No wonder she was in the relic room with me, she’s a silencer.
“I didn’t plan on wasting it,” I said.
“I don’t know what made you afraid of awakening, but if you worry that you’ll end up being someone like an Irredeemable, the academy can prevent you from hurting anyone else.”
“They can. I know they can. But, I can also prevent myself from hurting anyone else and yet...”
“Your plan, I know what you’re trying to do. If you believe you can wait until your wing disappears, you might need to reconsider.”
“It would’ve worked. The Passing of the Soul. I’ve done my best to make sure it could happen, I just needed to wait and maybe then, I could leave this academy.”
If an eternum doesn’t awaken their memories for a prolonged period of time, the soul would remain dormant. Any wing on the eternums’ crest would fade away and they wouldn’t be able to awaken until their next life. This was called the Passing of the Soul.
“The academy won’t let that happen. If you happen to be a threat, then you must be dealt with as soon as possible. You were given a chance from the academy. A chance which puts faith in you first. So, I ask you again, please don’t waste that power,” she said, this time with a hint of anger.
“You know, most people when they are kids hear these tales and heroic deeds of the eternum and hope to be a hero themselves. Eternum like us may have looked in admiration to these heroes and hoped that the memories they awaken is that of a hero,” I said and looked Priscilla in the eye, “but not me. I lost that hope early on.”
“If you choose not to awaken, you may regret not having that power later on. You could save people. You could be an inspiration to others. There must have been a reason why you chose to be an eternum. But if you insist on going down this path, you will only be seen as a threat.”
“When we first met, you told me a story. Let me return the favor. When this wing first appeared on my crest, I was terrified. Terrified of what I could become. I had already lost any hope in myself before that and so I only expected the worst. When my mom was sleeping I grabbed a knife and ran out to the forest. I kept running and running until I couldn’t run anymore. I was fully prepared to kill myself. But before I could stab myself, I saw my mom, panting heavily and face full of sweat. She knew how troubled I was by the wing and was afraid the moment I was out of her sight, I would do something reckless. Seeing her face then and there, I couldn’t find it in me to kill myself.
“I know that letting my soul pass on is risky. It’ll cause trouble in the future if it turns out I’m not a good person. It would be folly not to seal me or better yet, give me a true death now given the opportunity. I don’t care for my life, but there are those that do. And that is the only reason why I’m still alive. Unfortunately, my fear and pessimism slightly outweigh the faith given to me.”
Silence. There were no more words exchanged on the cliff. I could only stand there waiting for a response while the night breeze blew.
“If I told you I could offer you another path, would you take it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Would you take it?”
I scratched my head. The way I see it, I only had two paths. I could either awaken my past memories or try the Passing of the Soul. One of the academy’s jobs was to awaken the eternum and to determine beforehand the identity of an eternum. I didn’t practice magic or fight so it was almost impossible for the academy to figure out who I could be. They also didn’t want me to pass my soul either because it could be a threat in the future. So in the end, they decided to kill me. I couldn’t see a third option for me. But if she could offer me one, it’s better than what I have now.
“I would,” I said.
With that, Priscilla pulled out a fancy envelope with the seal of her house and handed it to me.
“The headmaster is probably going to be mad at me for saving you,” she said and sighed. “If you see another spirit beast or anybody else that may try to kill you, just show that envelope. It won’t protect you for long so I advise that you heed the instructions on the envelope.”
With that, she started to walk away and return to the hub.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You can thank me later.”
When I got back to my dorm I opened the envelope. On the bottom of the letter, there was a stamp of a fox. The letter contained in it said,
Given this letter, I presume that I have failed in persuading you to comply with the academy as predicted. Although you may have had an underwhelming performance during the tournament, it is with my pride and dignity on the line that I invite you to my team. I understand that you may have questions as to why I have invited you to my team but rest assured, I will explain my reasons when you meet me at the team dorm. Look for the carving of a fox on the door that matches the stamp. Remember, this envelope won’t protect you from the academy for long.
With sincere regards, second-year Priscilla Velfall, member of the House of Crux.”