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Chapter 23
Damsel in Distress

Grey’s body shivered as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped over him. He had been chosen! Chosen to die! He clenched his fingers and tried to muster up all his courage. He had been beaten so cruelly before…would the same thing happen again?

The overseer sneered, seeing Grey’s frightened expression.

“Yes,” said the overseer, waving his hand, smiling. “Take the ‘volunteers’ away. The rest of you back to the mines.”

He reclined upon his chair. His girth swaying as those muscular servants carried him out of the tunnel. Shortly after he had left, the guards came and began to pluck up the children like vegetables. Mylene pushed Grey’s head down to hide him in the crowd.

Grey saw a guard look his direction and knew it wouldn’t work.

“Don’t say anything,” said Grey, gripping her hand firmly. “If you say something they may hit you.”

“You can’t get hurt anymore!” said Mylene. She was worried if this kept up. Grey would die! Who knows where they were taking him? He could be thrown into a pit of man-eating monsters or killed like those children earlier with a rope around his neck.

“It’s alright,” said Grey, forcing a smile. “Don’t worry. I’m smart remember? I’ll find my way out.”

Mylene furrowed her eyebrows. Grey was smart, but that didn’t mean he would be able to come back. A guard walked over and held out his hand.

“You there with the brown hair. Yes, the boy. Come over here.”

Grey nodded meekly, and pushed Mylene away.

“Be good.”

He looked regretfully back at Mylene, and was taken outside with the rest of the children.

The soldiers had set up twelve cages outside the mines and threw each child into a cage until it held sixteen kids. They were small cages, and the children had been stuffed inside like a pile of books. The unfortunate ones on the bottom having to bear the weight of the ones on the top.

Many of them cried their hearts out not knowing what would happen to them. The six-year old girl on top of Grey shed tears on his shoulder. It may have been his male instincts, but he gently stroked her hair and waited for her to fall asleep. One by one. The cries died out in the night, leaving him alone looking up at the sky.

He had to train. He had to get stronger. Tomorrow who knew what awaited him when they opened the cage. He knew in a life or death battle he needed to have physical or magical skills in order to survive. However, he didn’t have anything! He only had aura and could only send out powerful gusts of wind when he was meditating.

“There is no way someone is going to let me meditate in a fight,” sighed Grey. “I can’t rely on that mysterious gust of wind. Perhaps, there is something I am overlooking.”

Grey thought about those stars, and began to train his mind inside the metal cage. Training may not do him any good, but he was not the type of person to sit around and do nothing.

He closed his eyes, and allowed his consciousness to ebb. A darkness came over him, wrapping around him like a cloak. He touched it, and numerous lights speckled into existence.

“I’m back in this place again,” thought Grey, looking at the darkness. He had found it easier the second time around to arrive at this state of mind. “This darkness is like that secret passage. I wonder if other people can see this too?”

He began to take mental notes on how this mysterious space worked.

If he touched a star it would burst into pieces, causing him to shoot out a gust of wind. He could also touch the darkness and pull on it like a curtain or shove it away like puddle. It was kind of like mud. If he swung his hand around. He found he could rearrange the stars as if they were pieces of a puzzle. Stars which began as disorganized blobs became organized lines, and then familiar shapes.

This is a dog! This is a house!

Grey moved the darkness around, being careful enough not to touch each glimmering light. Trees to a forest. Lakes to a ocean. He created various constellations using images he had seen every day. A world made out of stars.

He woke up the next day, having spent the whole night creating different star formations. He had not learned a single thing and had gotten carried away playing with those images.

“I guess I am still a kid,” sighed Grey. If he was an adult he would have not wasted his time on such frivolous matters. He would have to try again tomorrow.

The other children began to wake up alongside him. The sunlight shining as they lay trapped inside the cages.

A loud voice came up from soldiers standing guard.

“Lift,” said a tall burly man. He had a fuller beard and mean eyes. A dozen men marched over and lifted the cages up onto a raised earthen platform. The children watched as they were lifted up by a pulley and placed onto the ground. Rocks! Boulders! Crags! Fissures! It was if the place had been hit by an earthquake, many of the rocks stuck out of the ground as if thrown from a great height.

What is this place?

“Release!”

The ropes pulled the cage door open and all of them fell out.

“Where are we?” said the six-year old girl. She clung on Grey for dear life.

“I don’t know,” said Grey, rubbing her head. “We should hide somewhere. There might be something here that will hurt us.”

The rest of the girls heard him, and began to running around for a hiding place. Many of them began to pile rocks to make shelters, while others tried to find the smallest crevice to sink under. They didn’t know if something bad was going to happen, but they weren’t going to wait to find out.

Grey chose a spot between two large boulders. One of the rocks was tilted onto its side. If something appeared they could use it for cover. He looked around, and tried to assess the danger that was to come. They were in a large pit. Walls about twenty feet tall lay all around them, followed by rows of inclining seats all the way up several hundred feet. It was an arena!

A gate opened on the far side of the wall, several figures stepping out into the open. It was a group of teenagers with an old crimson warrior with an eye patch on his left eye. He carried a battle axe on his back.

“Initiates,” said a crimson warrior.  “Before you lies a replica of Jinjuko Fields. The site of a famous battle between the Plains People of Altea and the Tribes of Beyleya. Four thousand years ago a drought forced raiders from Altea to invade Beyleya causing what would later be known as the three hundred year war. In response to this threat, Beyleya construed a detachment of adventurers to alleviate the danger posed to the villagers closest to their border while their armies focused on large scale maneuvers.”

The warrior continued to explain the history behind the two nations, and the purpose that they were all here. In the group, three teenagers stood side to side, looking rather bored.

“He is talking a lot again,” said a Gilbert, brushing aside his long blue hair. He had pure eyes, the look of someone who had never stepped foot outside a classroom. “Can’t he get to the point already?”

“That’s how Wilfred is,” said a girl with orange streaks running down her hair. She held twin curved blades on her waist. “This will be like totally a piece of cake. If we pass this test we will be official adventurers right?”

“The cakes are good,” said a short boy, salivating next to the girl. He had crawled out from beneath her dress, causing her to look down with a grim expression.

“Stewart…what were you doing down there.”

“I was thinking about cake and…”

The girl took a step back and struck the boy on the head.

“Ow, Cherry…that hurt,” said the boy, rubbing his head.

“W-Why do you have to be so disgusting!” said Cherry, pointing at his handsome face. “G-Go over there with the other weirdos. You pervert!”

She pointed to a group of boys who were fawning over a single beautiful priest girl holding a staff. She was like a shining goddess with lights shining in all directions.

“Lorraine is a more like a cupcake rather than a normal cake,” frowned Stewart, looking lost. His eyes were so closed in a way it looked as if he was half-awake, whenever he spoke.

Cherry’s eyebrow twitched in irritation. How could such a pretty boy be so weird. It was a crime!

“Hehe,” drooled Stewart, looking up at the sky.

“You three shut up,” said Wilfred, throwing a rock at them. The rock struck Gilbert on the head, causing him to fall over.

“T-Teacher!” said Gilbert.

“Don’t you teacher me,” scowled Wilfred. “Did you even listen to a word I said?”

“O-Of course,” said Gilbert, standing up. He flashed his hair dramatically to the side. “This is an important event we all must cherish and do our utmost to succeed.”

“And what is it I want you to do,” twitched Wilfred, narrowing his eyes.

“T-That is…” said Gilbert, looking over to the side. “A secret?”

“Tsk,” Wilfred, threw another rock faster this time, causing it to drill a hole next to Gilbert’s feet.

“Eek!” screamed Gilbert like a girl. It almost hit him! It almost hit him!

“I said you are to save those villagers at the end of the arena,” said Wilfred, pointing at the arena. “They will be little kid’s no older than twelve. They are all criminals so it doesn’t matter if some of them die, but if you don’t bring one of them back over here to the start. You have failed!”

A loud trumpet sounded off from a seat up in the audience.

“It looks like we are out of time,” said Wilfred, “They will send the audience in a few minutes to get seated. Once the give the signal you are all to charge out and protect them from any danger! You all understand!”

“Yes!” said all of the initiates. They all prepared their equipment and readied themselves for their class test.


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