Chapter 7: Eye of the Tiger
Sir Bacon Strip stood exactly 1.5296641535685684754655546 meters away from his sensei, Arukoru on a plateau atop a majestic, yet lonely, barren, snowy mountain. Neither knew exactly how they arrived at said plateau, or even where the large geological formation existed geographically. However, this information was irrelevant. Bacon’s training would keep the two here in relative solitude for weeks, months, or even years perhaps.
“If this was a Hollywood film,” said Arukoru, “this would be the part where the protagonist goes through a montage of several exercises while listening to an inspirational song...performing progressively better as the song continues. This is not a Hollywood film. You will experience every painful moment and at the end of it all, you will be crispy...”
Arukoru stopped and gazed intently at Bacon. For a moment which resembled an eternity in purgatory, he narrowed his eyes and peered deeply into Bacon’s mismatched optical organs.
“...but not burned. Ugh. No. I can not teach you like this.” He pulled a pair of cheesy 80′s action hero sunglasses from his dark purple and gold kimono. “Put these on so I do not have to see your creepy eyes.”
Bacon obliged with a disgruntled grumble.
“Now, either take this wooden sword, or upgrade to premium for $8.99/month and get the blunt rusty blade with +40% exp boost per battle.”
“I guess I’ll do the premium upgrade,” replied Bacon, slightly puzzled.
“Ha. PTW N00B Haxor!”
“Silence! Kill this wolf and talk to me when you are done.”
In that moment, Bacon noticed a large, grey wolf standing a few feet away, growling and whistling like a sad flute. Bacon studied his opponent thoroughly. The wolf was substantially bigger than he was and seemed to be wearing some sort of hastily-made silver crown with sapphires lining the rim. It was clearly not an ordinary wolf, but also not a werewolf. It was quite skinnier, slightly more rugged, and possibly fox-like. The thoughts finally clicked and he turned back to Arukoru.
“That’s a damn werecoyote.”
“I could not find any actual wolves for your training. The universe does not smile upon you, Bacon Strip. However, you should keep one of those freaky eyes on your enemy. He’s about to get 1/3 of a nutritious breakfast.”
Without flinching, Bacon raised the DEI and fired a single round through the beast’s left ear, a werecoyote’s only weak spot. As a growing dragonlord, he had fought these creatures many times.
“I killed it, what’s next?”
“I don’t know. Snack time? The new students usually spend the next four to five weeks healing from their injuries. I was not prepared for this at all...” said Arukoru, pausing. “...actually... yes. Yes, I was. I totally know what I am doing. Take this wooden sword and fight that rock. Do it until I tell you to stop.”
Bacon took the battered wooden weapon and meandered over to the targeted rock. He raised the sword above his head and brought it down with the resounding crack that you would expect from such an object striking such another object. He raised it again and let loose the force of the mighty stick upon the defenseless rock. He raised it a third time--poised to strike.
“No. Do not hit the rock. Cut through the rock! The rock is butter if your soul becomes the butter knife!”
Bacon stopped. “What does that even mean?”
“BUTTER KNIFE!” Arukoru drew his sword and sliced through the rock without even slightly disturbing it or the snow resting on its surface. Tension hung in the air as Bacon struggled to comprehend what happened and Arukoru concentrated on maintaining his comical, yet extremely badass pose. A scraping sound pierced through the icy winds of the mountaintop air. Part of the rock slipped off and buried itself in the snow.
“That’s not fair,” grumbled Bacon, “Your sword is sharper than mine!”
“Your sword does not need to be sharp when the world around you is easy to cut... easy like warm butter.”
“The world isn’t butter, sensei!”
“It is! It is butter to your soul! A true swordsman does not cut with his sword, but with his soul! His blade only guides the arc and acts as a conduit of power!”
“I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“Your blade does not go through. It simply is before the cut and then it is after the cut. Your soul connects the dots in between.”
“What kind of drugs are you on, sensei?”
“Winners do not do drugs,” replied Arukoru, munching on a handful of mushrooms. “Rid your mind of doubt!” He washed the mushrooms down with a tall glass of tea made from multiple unidentifiable plants and mineral stones. “It is time for you to apply the knowledge I have given you.”
Arukoru clapped his slimy tiny arms together and the mountain disappeared. Instead, the two were now in a spooky old graveyard that everyone had long forgotten. A thick, heavy blanket of fog surrounded the weathered tombstones and obscured visibility rather thoroughly.
“This is Ohkbitur, the grave of a thousand men.”
The ground began to move beneath their feet.
“They burned a woman at the stake for the crime of witchcraft. She was innocent and so her death displeased the minor deity which governed their town.”
Limbs surged through the earth and clawed through the dirt.
“It cursed the village. In 500 years, all of those responsible would rise from their graves and watch themselves devour their descendants.”
Rotting corpses emerged from their respective places of hibernation.
“That was exactly 500 years ago. Kill them all if you want to continue your training.” Arukoru snatched the DEI out of Bacon’s hands and vanished.
Bacon spun around, watching the rise of the fearsome horde on all sides. The old village’s religion believed that the afterlife was glorious battle with demons, wombats, kangaroos, penguins, and all other such unholy creatures. They employed the highly skilled, most experienced master blacksmiths to create brilliant works of death, destruction, and art for the fallen kings and knights to wear in the next life. Even the poor were given exceptional equipment. An extremely popular law by the long-dead King Motzar dictated that every man, woman, and child would not be buried without armor, a sword, and a shield fit for a god of war (This law was later changed to include other possible weapons of choice: daggers, spears, battle scythes, katana, axes, fire stones, hammers, glaives, knives over 12 inches, shuriken and/or kunai, knives under 10 inches, black magic spellbooks, longbows, shortbows, bow ties, two-handed swords, bowls of acid, kyoketsu-shoge, a “good” stick, Et Cetera™ Warmonger Gauntlets, Et Cetera™ Thunder Claws, Et Cetera™ Black Death Blood Diamond Knuckles, [“Et Cetera™! Come to Et Cetera™ for all your war-related punching needs!“] and nunchaku). As a result, every undead villager was equipped with the mightiest and shiniest armor in the world with weapons to match.
The first zombie came at him with a battle scythe, shrieking with ghoulish glee as it whipped the razor edge forward and down through the swampy air, parting the fog as the weapon traveled to its mark. Bacon dodged narrowly to the side, letting the scythe follow through and impale the ground. He sheathed his wooden sword as he lunged for a dagger on the zombie’s belt. The moment he felt it touch his hand, he pulled it out and buried it in the creature’s skull. He jerked it out and flicked at a lightly-armored warhammer-wielding berserker zombie. The dagger hit the shoulder, causing it to drop the hammer. Bacon slid across the battlefield and scooped up the weapon as he passed the berserker. He came to a stop at a perfect distance behind his enemy, spun back, and crushed it with its own hammer.
Bacon continued on for hours, cutting his foes down like wheat during harvest. Throughout the battle, he was untouched. Mindless hordes of zombie warriors were no match for the fighting skill of a dragon--even one trapped inside the body of a puny bacon strip. The horde seemed to be intelligent enough to use weapons and spellbooks, but they lacked any common sense or reflexes. Several times, a zombified mage would cast an explosive fireball spell and detonate an entire crowd of its allies due to lack of proper aiming and judgement of distance to its target. The rainstorm of flaming severed limbs was usually much more dangerous than the spell itself.
Just when victory was in his grasp, the inner gates of the cemetery swung open with a loud scrape and a crash, revealing the undead royal guards. They fell into a V-formation as they marched forward in beautifully choreographed steps, their armor and equipment clinking and clanking in perfect unison.
Not even human prior to zombification, they were eight feet tall and shrouded in fortresses of enchanted armor. Each guard was equipped with one of the twenty-one legendary kiteshields created by Nye, the ultimate grandmaster blacksmith king who reigned long ago. These kiteshields were infused with unique combinations using three of the eight known elements at that time. In addition to their shields, they all carried colossal greatswords. Clearly elvish in design, the blades were seven feet long with eighteen-inch handles. As if on cue, all but one of them slowly and smoothly drew their behemoth swords as they advanced. The only one who didn’t draw his (or her, or its, no one really knows) sword was the knight leading the V-formation. He was jet-black with silver linings on his armor decorated by a luscious dark blue cape that flowed through the fog behind him.
*useless information alert*
The royal guard was divided into three units of seven.
key: R-flame G-Wind B-Water L-Darkness W-Ice N-Stone P-Mind Y-Light (V-emptiness)
Commanders: RWL RYP
Standard: RGW RYN RYW RBW
Elite Black Knights
Commanders: LBP LNR
Standard: LBG LGW LNB LBW
Commanders: PWR PYL
Standard: PWB PYG PYN PYB
*useless information ends here*
“I forgot to tell you about these guys.” Arukuro had reappeared sometime during the grand entrance of the mighty guards and was now standing next to Bacon. “They’re elemental creatures sustained by their magical kiteshields. The only way to kill them is to first destroy those shields.”
“What? Are you serious?”
“Do not question me, Bacon Strip!” Arukoru vanished again.
Bacon selected the most obscenely oversized greatsword from the carnage on the cemetery ground, took a breath, then charged at the advancing team of semi-indestructible super-soldiers. He planted into the ground a few feet from the leading knight and pivoted, bringing his sword around in a vicious flash of filthy steel. The knight calmly moved his shield into the sword’s trajectory to intercept the attack. The blade instantly shattered upon contact with the shield. Before Bacon could recover, the knight pulled his shield aside and swung his metal fist, making solid contact and sending the bacon strip flying through several gravestones, a statue of a weeping angel, the gravekeeper’s house, the old church behind it, and exactly five trees.
The wounded warrior dislodged himself from the sixth tree. He dashed to a nearby sword embedded in both a zombie and the gravestone behind him, but was intercepted as the leader of the red knights made impact with the gravestone like a meteor (the “useless” information wasn’t actually useless; most of these next few paragraphs will make more sense if you read the aforementioned information). The knight lunged forward with his titanic shield, checking the bacon strip like a coked-out hockey player chasing the puck on a diet of spinach, steroids, and live baby birds. Bacon flew back even faster than during his first encounter with a knight of the round table (or square, no one knows...it could even be a jigsaw puzzle shape; your guess is as good as mine). Surprisingly, the would-be sixth tree victim remained intact despite being already damaged by flying breakfast food. Bacon peeled himself off the tree again, only to be carried into the upper atmosphere by a flaming tornado. He could feel his flesh sizzling wildly as he spiraled through the fiery vortex of destruction.
When the firestorm finally ceased, the crackling and popping was the only thing he could hear. Then he heard a voice.
“Butter! The world must become butter, Bacon Strip!”
The salamander sensei Arukoru floated nearby above the clouds, holding himself in a meditate posture and sighing in disappointment. “Only the eye of the tiger can see the way without the light. You must believe in what the light cannot yet reveal to you! Once you truly believe in your sword, your sword will believe in you!”
Bacon began to lose the upward velocity which was previously supplied by the firenado. As he fully decelerated and started his return to earth, the sensei reversed his levitational forces and matched Bacon’s acceleration and speed, still maintaining his posture.
“In this relationship, neither sword nor warrior cuts. The combined fury of their souls is the blade which never dulls!”
The salamander uncurled and grabbed the bacon strip, staring fiercely into his eyes.
“BUTTER! LIKE BUTTER, BACON STRIP!”