Kooroo -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/9/2018 18:28:57)
Where the hell was it?
Where had that blasted gun gotten to?
The fight on the other side of the Arena had not come any closer to him, but circumstances changed as easily as the weather. You could usually see it coming, but sometimes you were due for an unwelcome surprise. With this knowledge in hand and whilst occasionally checking on the other competitors, Elias was frantically looked around for his dropped handgun on the Arena floor. Shunting the fog was tough and arduous work. It was incredibly thick and didn’t move very far, even when shunted with both hands. Worst of all, it slowly crept back towards him once pushed aside, making it hard to discern where he had yet to search and where had already searched.
He sighed in frustration and stood up, stretching and wincing as the motion agitated his wound. Then he hunched, hands on his knees and glanced from side to side. Where could it possibly have landed? Thinking back to his fight with the cobalt warrior, he backtracked his actions and their movements. A few moments passed, then Elias swivelled and looked towards the wall behind him. Right after he’d lost the gun, he’d rolled to the side and backed into the wall. That meant that the handgun had most likely ricocheted off of the wall and… landed on the grass. Somewhere.
Elias blinked and frowned, then took a deep breath. He looked up, noting that the other combatants still hadn’t noticed him and relaxed. They all appeared to be too focused on killing each other to bother with him for the moment. Unless one of them got launched a good distance or decided to charge him, then he was probably in no danger. And if they did, well hopefully he’d be aware enough to notice. One didn’t generally survive in a such a violent industry without ample awareness or respect of their surroundings.
And with that thought, the young man turned and started towards the westernmost point of the Arena. His foot landed on something hard, which sunk slightly into the ground. There was a loud bang, and the object he had stood on shot out from underneath him. Elias yelped as he fell forward, and landed heavily, almost getting a face full of wet grass.
There was a sharp noise, the sound of metal impacting wood, and then something silver and sparkling landed a few feet away from him. Prone on the ground, Elias crawled over towards it and his fingers closed around the cool and slightly damp handle of the handcannon. Best use of its last shot so far.
He made to stand up, and then dropped low again as a familiar, wicked cackle filled the stadium. The fog rose, and Elias stood with it, frowning at this unexpected development.
And then the Arena exploded; with howls; with light, and with shadow.
All of Elias’ friends held their collective breath as the magical spectacle raged in the battleground below. Once the lightshow had stopped and the stars cleared from their sight, they scanned the field for their companion—four pairs of eyes with a shared purpose.
When it became clear that Elias was no longer in the Arena, Annette slumped in her seat and gave a sigh of relief as Daford lay back and relaxed in his. Tylias adjusted her glasses and continued to stare at the remaining contestants. Reuben continued mimicking a statue.
“See, Annette? Never a single doubt. The boy was fine! He'll do great in the Finals,” Daford grinned.
“You’re looking awfully sweaty for someone that had complete faith in him,” she replied dryly.
“As I’ve said, I’m a man of faith. Look in any monastery or chapel, and you will not find one as devout, nor good looking as I.”
Tylia looked up at him and tilted her head. “Are you going to give us a sermon?”
“Well… Probably not without a tome or some reference text,” he admitted.
“Then what good would you be in a monastery?”
“I could collect the firewood and clear the surrounding trees. Maybe hunt some game, if they aren’t one of those animal-friendly ones,” he nodded. Daford waited for a retort, but it became evident that no one was in the mood. He raised a hand to his face and sighed.
“Look, guys, Elias was fi—”
“Don’t you dare start with that whole “Elias was fine” business, Daford!” Annette spun to face him, her eyes burning with fury. “You know exactly what I saw; what we all saw! When that giant blue thing spun to stab him, and I couldn’t see him from behind her, I thought he was gone! Dead! Lost, within that field of blood and mist!”
“Blame Reuben for getting us these seats then,” The lumberjack muttered.
Reuben grunted in response, and turned around to watch the leaving spectators.
“How can you take this all so casually, having nearly watched him get impaled?” she raged on. Then she raised her eyebrows, as though in realisation. “Oh wait, I know.”
Daford rolled his eyes, then looked towards her. “How?”
“Cause you’re a donkey, you ass!” she shouted, raising her oversized spellbook overhead.
Daford jumped up and backed up a step, his hands raised calmingly and his head just out of the cleric’s swinging range. “Look, Annette. Like I told you, I was a hundred percent sure that he would be fine.”
“Then why did you look like you were about to jump in yourself?”
“Look, just because I believed he would be fine didn’t mean that I didn’t want to help him!” he snapped.
Annette didn’t say anything, but kept her glare centered on him, waiting for his explanation.
“As much as he looks like it, Annette, Elias isn’t exactly a kid anymore. Earlier this morning, after we saw him off and when we were on the way to our seats, that made me think. I asked myself ‘what would his parents have wanted for him?’”
“And do you know what his parents would have wanted?” Tylia asked.
“Well, probably the opposite of what mine would have wanted, which would have been to stay safe and away from nasty strangers with pointy weapons. But I didn’t listen to them much, anyway.”
“Never would have guessed,” Annette remarked sarcastically.
“But Elias’ parents were always a different sort. Toma and Ariel never really tried to cotton wool their kids. They always pushed them, and encouraged them to challenge themselves. Whenever Elias got bullied or had a run-in with some of the other kids in town, they never came rushing to their son’s aid. At least, not with bandages, but motivating words and advice. Ariel once caught Casimira trying to spar with one of the off-duty guards, and the only thing she told her daughter was to ‘hold the grip, not strangle it’.”
“That doesn’t sound like a different sort of parenting, that just sounds like bad parenting,” Tylia chimed in.
“That’s what I thought as well. Especially when you remember that they left their kids with nothing but a burning house and the dog before they vanished,” the older man grimaced. “But my point is that I don’t think his parents would have been like mine—or probably any of yours—and discouraged them from entering the Championship.”
“You’d think they’d do the opposite?”
“And you seriously didn’t think that there was something odd about a carpenter giving advice to their daughter on how to duel a trained guard?” Annette interjected.
There was a slight hesitation, followed by a shrug. “Well, Casimira was always a… a difficult girl.”
The amazonian cleric snorted. “Never knew the girl for long, but that was pretty clear from the start. And I guess we’d better hurry and find a good angle to see her brother get stabbed from.”
She turned to Reuben. “You hear that, big guy? A good angle this time.”
The hulking swordsman nodded, and stood, with the rest following suit thereafter.
The next thing Elias knew he was on his back, and staring not at the night sky of Twilight, but at a stone ceiling hidden by shadows and poor lighting.
Moments passed before the blade-for-hire picked himself up off the floor and stood up, looking around to see where he was.
The room was vast and spacious, but drafty and poorly lit. Candles flickered weakly on the walls, their pitiful glow doing little to change the dark and dreary feel of the cavern. Another source of light shone from the far side of the cave, this one a rectangle of silver that illuminated the center of the chamber. Elias stood still and listened, but could hear nothing but the wind, blowing in from gaps in the walls. He began moving towards the silver light, his footsteps echoing unnaturally through the cavern.
As he walked, Elias made note of a few oddities. The first one was that his handgun was at his side, which was odd because he hadn’t remembered holstering it before being moved from the Arena. He pushed down on the gun and didn’t hear a click. Loaded, then.
The second strange thing was that he wasn’t wounded anymore, nor was there any damage to his gear or clothing to indicate that he had ever been wounded. A hand to the side where the warrior’s sword had caught him confirmed his suspicions. It wasn’t just a faux fix with a fresh tunic and strong painkillers; he was completely healed.
He kept walking closer to the silver light, and it soon became clear that it wasn’t just a light; it was a doorway. A doorway, no taller and no wider than any other, but filled with a soft, dancing, shimmering, radiance that lit up more and more of his surroundings as he neared. When Elias was a only stone’s throw away, a row of stone plinths materialized out of the gloom on either side of him, giving him a makeshift guard of honor.
Each short slab of stone held a set of equipment. To his left lay a some of leather armor, similar to the one Elias currently wore. The nearest pedestal on his right held a miniature crossbow made of steel, with no bowstring that he could see. The next base had a pair of slim, silver gauntlets. On another sat a pair of golden lensed goggles.
More pedestals remained ahead of him, but Elias’ attention was diverted from them when a young woman in a long black coat slipped out of the shadows and stepped into his path. Elias’ breath caught as he stopped walking and he stared in shock as the woman turned to him, a confident smirk on her pretty face. A few long and silent moments passed before the sellsword found his voice, and when he spoke, it was nought but a whisper that escaped his lips.
“Casimira...” And his sister’s grin grew wider.
“So kind of you to remember me, dear brother.”
Though Elias hadn’t seen her in over a decade, there was no mistaking the girl that now stood before him. The confident smirk, that tousled brown hair, those golden eyes and the contemptuous tone that she addressed him with. Some things didn’t change.
“... H-how?” Elias began, trying to find his words.”Why are you here? Where have you been, Casimira?”
His sister held a hand out, clad in a gauntlet like the one on the plinth. She strode over towards him, her jaunty swagger another familiarity from days long past. “You always were very straight to the point, weren’t you, dear brother? ’Why are you here? Where have you been? What did you do to that man?’ All familiar questions and still lacking any grace or manners. What about ‘how are you, my dear sister?’, hm? Or a compliment? ‘You're looking fine as ever, Casimira!’”
“I… I don’t exactly have time for this, Casimira.”
Casimira smiled. “Of course you have time, brother. In fact, we have all the time in the world. Or as much as we need, or until you compliment my coat.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
She sighed, and then looked back at him pityingly. “I see that you haven’t become mentally faster over the years, though you seem to have become physically faster. Not that it’s a great feat, mind you.”
Elias grunted. His relationship with his sister had been something of both love and hate, even at the best of times. Though his sister mocked and ridiculed him on a daily basis, she’d been there whenever he had needed her and had helped him pull through problems more easily than he’d have been able to by himself. Granted, Casimira was the one that had sometimes been the cause of some problems; like the time she’d fed a bully’s hamster to a barn owl. But the fact remained that they were siblings, and with their parents missing she had been his only family member left.
Until she had disappeared inexplicably 12 years ago.
“So, brother. Tell me, what exactly do you think has happened?” Casimira asked, putting both hands on her hips.
“Well… I was chosen as Wind Paragon?”
“Very good. Ten points! Now, what do you think is behind that door?” she asked, swivelling and gesturing to the silvery portal.
“The Finals Arena?”
Casimira turned back to him and crossed her arms in an X-shape. “Nope, not quite. But it was a trick question anyway! So, dear bro. This is apparently the part where the Wind Lord’s representative grills their Paragon for answers and makes them do some introspection. Then you emerge into the Arena all inspired and brimming with confidence before you get stabbed in the neck and drown in a pool of your own blood, though the Arena sands make that impossible from what I hear. However…”
She reached into her pockets and discarded some torn up sheets of parchment. “I accidentally shredded the script, so I guess we’ll be doing this my way. So, brother.”
Her boot rapped against the pedestal on her left and it rose up to match her height. Casimira leaned on it with an elbow and grinned at Elias. “I know why you’re here. But tell me, what makes you so sure that our parents are still alive?”
“Are you telling me that you don’t thi—” Elias began, but was abruptly cut off.
“I’m just asking where you got this grand idea from. Did you have a PI dig up the good stuff for you? No wait, you’ve tried that, haven’t you?” she laughed, and Elias felt himself flush with anger.
“Then what are you saying, Casimira? Do you know where they are, or what happened to them?” he said, half shouting.
“Then tell me,” he demanded. "Where are they?"
Casimira laughed. “Several feet under. They’re dead.”
Elias went pale and felt a weight sink down to the pit of his stomach. His throat felt like it had become unnaturally dry as he tried to muster up a reply to his leering, still-grinning sister. After a short wait, he managed. “I don’t believe you. Mot—”
She sighed. “And I don’t know how this conversation could get any more cliché. Honestly, did you even check these little trinkets and souvenirs that I’ve taken the time and effort to prep for you? Go on. Start with the armor, the breastplate. Most decisive piece of evidence you'll find. Give it a check and see what happened to our dear Ma.”
He reached out with a shaking arm, with trembling fingers and slowly lifted the chest armor from its pedestal. He looked over it and then frowned as he continued looking for a mark, or a hole, or anything. “It’s… It’s completely intact?”
Now it was Casimira’s turn to frown. “What?”
Elias held the sheet of leather up for her to see. “I said that it’s intact. There’s not a single mark or fault with it.”
His sister’s stared at the breastplate for a moment, and then her expression changed from one of uncertainty to one of annoyance. She stood up and moved to the stand on her right, and picked up the item—a golden-colored visor— to inspect it. As soon as she looked at it her face twisted in disgust, and she hurled it on the floor, where it shattered and faded out of existence.
Elias’ eyes narrowed. None of this was right. Besides the obvious impossibilities, something else was wrong. “This isn't real,” he murmured.
She whirled to face him. “What?”
Elias met her glare and continued. “None of this is real. I don't believe that my parents are dead. And I don't believe that you're my sister.”
The pedestals and the items they held collapsed and crumbled to dust, as though to punctuate the impact of Elias words and incredulity in Casimira’s voice. She stepped back until she was just in front of the doorway, and then crossed her arms whilst muttering darkly. Elias continued, returning the glare.
“Casimira might have loved to make my life difficult or cause problems, but I doubt she would have stooped so low or gone this far just to screw with me.”
“You're calling me a fake, is that it?” she asked doubtfully, an eyebrow raised.
“A fake within this room, perhaps. But if you're a fake, then at least you exist. I'm saying that you’re just as real as those pedestals. You don't exist.”
A loud howl filled the chamber, as though the wind had become outraged at Elias’ accusation. Casimira, or what may have been her doppelgänger, dropped to her knees, a hand at her temple, and a mix of agony and anger on her face. Elias walked closer and looked down on her, one of the few times he had ever recalled doing so. Neither of them were particularly tall, but Casimira had always had a few centimetres on him.
He stopped when he was right in front of her and could go no further. “Let me through.”
The young woman winced, then looked up at him and spoke. Whilst it was undoubtedly her voice, now it sounded as though she were being told—or perhaps directed—what to say. “Are you not worried about the truth you might uncover?” she said, amongst gasps of pain.
“No. I believe in my parents, and I believe they're alive. Daford never doubted—”
And that was enough. A look of utmost fury shot across Casimira’s face, and she shot a silver-gloved hand out. A massive gust ripped through the chamber, threads of silver shooting from the doorway behind her as though pulled loose by the sudden wind. Elias was knocked buffeted backwards as the room filled with a blinding light.
When his vision cleared, Elias was standing in yet another room. This one was much smaller, and completely barren of features, save a large stone gate that he was facing. Judging from the sounds coming from beyond it, there were probably no prizes for guessing what was behind it.
What… What was that? What had all of that been?
A soft, lilting whisper drifted to him, like petals on a summer breeze.
”Your faith in your parents is commendable, Elias Iivonen. May your resolve and your heart stay as strong.”
And with that the gates opened, to the crimson sands of legend and the roars of the crowd. The young sellsword pulled on his goggles, then drew his arms and strode forth, into the midday sun.
Wasting no time on pleasantries or theatrics, Elias scanned his surroundings and neighbours in a trice. Another moment passed, and then he started, marching towards his chosen; Vir, the Paragon of Energy.