Carpathia III: Episode 115: Training
Over the flat, featureless desert, a routine amongst the group developed. They would travel, then make camp, and Toma would tell more of his story while they ate. Though Toma was told of Ryuu's abilities, his response to his offer to utilize them was always the same. "Maybe later."
This time, with the cooking nearly finished, there was one member missing. Looking around, Kaoru spotted Ryuu perched atop one of the rocks that Adell had pulled from the ground. He seemed to be gazing up at the sky and sniffing the air.
Kaoru: Food's almost done, Ryuu. Is there something wrong?
Ryuu sniffed at the air a few more times before gingerly leaping down from the top of the rock.
Ryuu: Nothing's wrong, no. It's just...
Ryuu suddenly seemed pensive as he scratched behind his ear. By now, not only Kaoru, but the others as well were awaiting an answer.
Ryuu: I'm not sure if I should say anything, but I'm getting more and more sure. I think there's another dragon here. It's still far away, but I think it's getting closer.
The others stared at Ryuu, wide-eyed and eyebrows arched.
Adell: Really? How far? Do you know anything else?
Ryuu: Not much. Still very far away and approaching very slowly. I'll check, but it will take days for me to reach the source. I'm not leaving until we make it to the Outlands.
The others looked around at each other, wondering what to make of this new information.
Artemis: Could it be a bad dragon?
Ryuu absentmindedly picked at his chin with his claw.
Ryuu: I'm not gonna lie. Bad dragons exist, but that's rare. It's only natural to develop a strong empathy when we have each others' memories in our heads. We'll just have to wait. It's only a couple of weeks left to the village. If I left now and something bad happened, I'd never forgive myself.
The group pondered this new information for only a short while. As they sat down to eat, Toma continued his story.
Volcano, Yseri, Volcanic Colosseum
Hanif proved to be a powerful ally. While Toma took a time to rest and recuperate, Hanif fended off curious onlookers and and others with more nefarious purposes. Though Toma wondered for what purpose Hanif had him in mind, he didn't question it. Throughout the day, Toma only desired to recover from his ordeal in the desert and said little until, that evening, Hanif roused him from his rest.
Hanif: You're in good enough shape now. Time to start your training.
Toma sat up lazily and pulled one of his ears down, scratching it.
Hanif: For the fighting arena. Your first match has been scheduled. It's a Blue match, which is the lowest level. You need to make sure you're ready.
Toma sat on the edge of his bed, clasping his hands together.
Toma: I don't know anything about anything around here.
Hanif's ear fluttered as he stared down at his new protege.
Hanif: Did you just come out of the portal yesterday? There are four types of matches, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red. You do well, you move to a higher difficulty. If you do badly, your owner will likely force you to run the Death Race or fight a Red match to regain your position.
Toma was too paralyzed with shock to do anything but gaze dolefully at Hanif.
Hanif: You really don't know, do you? Come with me to the training room. I'll answer any questions you have on the way.
Hanif put his hand on Toma's back and gently pushed, inviting him to follow. Toma gingerly rose to his feet and followed. As they made their way out of the sleeping quarters and into the hallway, Toma noticed right away that anyone in their way immediately flattened themselves against the nearest wall, allowing them to pass easily. It was very clear that Hanif had some sort of stature amongst the other fighters.
Toma: I don't see any guards around.
Hanif: Plenty of them outside the doors and beyond. You're not getting away, if that's what you're thinking. Believe me, I've tried.
Hanif pointed in turn to several of the scars on his body.
Hanif: I didn't get all of these in the fighting ring. You're here forever and the only way to last is to be strong. I've been here for so many seasons, I've lost count.
The pair continued down the winding corridors leaving Toma wondering if he'd ever manage to find his way around by himself.
Toma: I notice you don't seem to be afraid of me.
Hanif stopped suddenly and grimaced, looking down at Toma in bemusement.
Hanif: Ha ha! And why would I be afraid of you?
Wondering if he shouldn't have said anything, Toma did his best to give a simple answer.
Toma: Sorry. It's just, where I came from, nekomi are usually very surprised to see my species.
Hanif reached up, rubbing his mouth, and he emitted a low grumble.
Hanif: Hrm... Come to think of it, I don't think I have ever seen your kind. What are you, anyway?
Toma: I'm a tokki.
Monetarily, Hanif's eyes shifted upward, as if he was thinking, and then he continued on his way.
Hanif: Nope, never heard of that. That'll be a good advantage for you. Nobody will know what your strengths are. I have some pretty good guesses, though.
They arrived at a pair of plain, white doors of the sort that one would expect to find at a bus station. Hanif pushed on one and lead Toma into wide room full of mats. Around the room were several people sparring in groups.
Hanif: The open areas are for people who are inviting several sparring partners. We'll take a private room.
Hanif lead Toma to another door and stepped inside. This room was much smaller, only big enough for two people to use at a time.
Hanif: I told you before about the matches. You'll start at Blue, which is novice level. Do well and you'll move up to Green and eventually Yellow. The trick is to balance your wins and losses so that you stay in Yellow. If you're too good, you might be assigned a Red match, which is a fight to the death. If you fall below Blue, you'll either be assigned a Red match or a Death Race, full of spikes and other deadly hazards in order to restore your position.
Hanif paused, realizing that Toma didn't appear to be paying attention. Toma had one of his ears pulled down to the side of his head, wringing it nervously.
Hanif: Hey, this is important!
Toma continued wringing his ear as he sniffled.
Toma: I don't know what's going on.
Hanif sighed heavily. Approaching Toma, Hanif put his hands on Toma's shoulders.
Hanif: Look, I get that you're tired and scared, but you have to pay attention. Winning your first match is important, otherwise you'll be assigned a Red match or a Death Race right away.
Toma nodded meekly as Hanif backed away and puffed out his chest.
Hanif: Alright, let's see what you got. Go ahead and punch me.
Toma looked up, first to Hanif's face and then to his chest.
Hanif: Go on. Give me everything you have.
Toma hesitated, looking at each of his hands in turn, wondering if he even knew how to make a proper fist. Hanif remained as solid and stationary as a brick wall, awaiting him. Though unsure of himself, Toma clenched his fist and charged at Hanif and punched at his chest as hard as he could. Upon contact, there was little more than a thud. Hanif didn't budge and now Toma's left hand felt very sore.
Hanif: Hmmm, lefty. Seems punching isn't your thing right now. Why don't you try a kick?
Hanif puffed out his chest again as Toma's eyes widened. Vividly recalling what he had done in the cave not long ago, his eyes darted around the room as he wondered what he should do next.
Hanif: Don't hold back!
On the contrary, holding back was the only option that seemed viable to Toma. Carefully, Toma lifted his leg did his best to aim, which was the most difficult part of all, as Hanif's waist was as high as Toma's chest. Toma finally let his leg loose with what he thought was a reasonably gentle kick and was surprised to see Hanif tumble backward and land on his rear, a momentarily shocked expression passing his face as he landed.
On the ground, Hanif's shock turned to a wide grin and he laughed.
Hanif: Ha ha! I knew I saw something interesting in you! I think we've found your speciality!
All city pictures from SimCity 4