Stories Hub / Mind Control / Tristan's Tale Pt. 06

Tristan's Tale Pt. 06

by IncomingPornDuck 09/28/16

Here's the next installment of Tristan's Tale. New to the story? Check my profile!

Thanks to all who have written to me, and especially thank you to my wonderful editors.

~

Dust rose behind us like an omen: the humans were coming to the Arena.

And they weren't alone.

"I still can't believe it's true," I said. "That we're about to actually see other peoples. Other races."

"Wind Jhinns and Ifrits and Droll, oh my!" shouted Sailor, earning him a few stares from the crowd of people around us. He threw his head back in laughter. "I can't wait!"

The day had started like any other, but with an added anticipation I couldn't shake. After all the fighting and all the sweat, it was unreal to know that it would all be over before I went to sleep tonight.

The Tournament. It was happening.

Today was the day I'd walk into the Arena and leave either a hero or the laughingstock of Caer'Aton. I'd been training for what felt like forever, and I hadn't slept in days. It was all just a blur of swordplay in my mind. I could barely remember how long I'd been awake. Four days? Five? My muscles were sore in places that I hadn't even known about.

I was disappointed but not surprised when they announced at breakfast to meet in the courtyard at first period. It meant I missed Kiara's stretching class, something my body desperately needed. I swear my disappointment had nothing to do with the fact that Kiara was the Master Seductress of Moleh.

I joke, but. . .

I glanced to my right where Jade was walking, speaking with Emmit. My hand was in hers, and it felt so natural I'd forgotten it was even there. I had this feeling I didn't have a name for, a constant state of surprise that things were going so well between me and her.

So Master Seductress or not, I was only sad to miss Kiara's class because even the orange potions Alice had stolen for me hadn't totally taken the edge off my body's pain. I mean, I'd trained nonstop for a week. Literally. I'd even skipped meals for a couple days to cram in some more training time. By all accounts, the very fact that I was walking meant I was doing fantastic. But even with the healing brew, that bizarre liquid that took away your aches and pains, I was tight in places that needed to be flexible, and my mind was far from relaxed.

Manifesting my Chi would go a ways to calm myself down. You get crazy lucid when your Chi snaps into your hand. But, unfortunately, I was hiding something. When I'd first manifested it, I was on a power high. I'd decimated the rankings, and even dueled with Jet. That power had faded significantly over time. I was stronger than most, but I had yet to train with much of the top tier. Who knew if I was better than them?

Part of hiding my loss of power meant not pushing myself to the edge, so people always thought I was holding back. They'd assumed I was stronger than I was. One thing I'd learned here was your reputation was a weapon if you used it properly. Here, I was using it to hide the fact that, despite all my training, I didn't know how I'd do in the Tournament. Could I handle a Zero? Sure. No question. Someone with Set? That's where I grew more uncertain. Having never faced the other races, I couldn't even estimate my chances accurately. I just wanted it to be over already, so I could stop feeling so anxious.

In the courtyard after breakfast, we'd squinted our eyes against the morning sun as Jet gave a short briefing on the walk to the Arena. He emphasized the importance of staying on the path. How they couldn't guarantee our protection if we strayed. We rolled our eyes.

As if there was anything to worry about. It was grasslands for miles and miles around Moleh, the part of Caer'Aton for humans, and those plains were always empty. The hot sun alone in a cloudless sky made for perfect visibility. You couldn't sneak up on Caer'Aton even if the day suddenly flipped to night, as the stars were thick here, and the moon was big and bright even at a sliver.

So what were we supposed to be afraid of? There were hundreds of us. And though it was too easy to forget, we were, essentially, a regiment of assassins. I didn't know how we compared to the rest of this strange world, but I had a hard time imagining anything more powerful than hundreds of people with the ability to control minds.

So I didn't know why they needed all the ceremony. Maybe Shae was trying to give the Arena meaning somehow, make it seem important. Or maybe she was trying to make the rest of the world seem more dangerous, but I didn't buy it. Caer'Aton was safe. We were in an oasis crafted by Shae.

That being said, I'd heard a few stories of the other species, and fighting leathery humanoids twice my size didn't strike me as particularly safe. I didn't understand these things. Ifrits? Little dancing demons? And the Wind Jhinn—those I understood the least of all.

Jade squeezed my hand. "Are you nervous?"

We made a strange pair. Me in all black from my messy, in-my-eyes hair to my pants. Her in her simple clothes of gray and white that left her looking like she'd planned the ease of her beauty for days. "Nervous?" I asked, exaggerating a quiver in my voice. "What have I got to be nervous about?"

"Nothing," said Emmit. "The Arena is a ceremony. The bringing together of people. The fighting component is just a fight, just like any you've done on the mats. There's no real danger." He pointed. "And even if there was, you won't get killed with him around."

I followed his gesture. I could see the long black ponytail walking ahead amid a sea of other people. Jet was a short ways in front of us, and he was the only person walking alone. Everyone walked together in their various groups, divided by Clan, but Jet was an Odieh—above all our petty drama.

Tower walked separate from Talon, where Rodrigo and Vanessa were planning strategies with Thad and Jeff and the others. Stone seemed fairly at ease, content in the far back of the long procession of people. They were the least competitive of the Clans. I periodically heard Thomas's booming laugh carry all the way up the line to me. He'd been kind of cold and distant to me lately.

My Clan, Lotus, was still in its infancy. We barely had fifteen people. At the end of the last training before the Tournament, they had asked what our strategy was. How we'd approach it as a Clan.

I know, right? They thought I had a plan. Hilarious.

If you listened to my friends, all I had was a death wish. Nobody else would have started the pissing contest I'd started with Derrik, or trained for a week non-stop. My relentless training had made me overly callous in my fighting, and I'd apparently bruised a few egos. It had a bit of a polarizing effect on people. Some resented me for what "success" I did have, even though I didn't have anything to show for it. Some thought I was an asshole, and they were probably justified.

But some had liked me well enough to ask me if I could teach them, and we'd formed a clan—Lotus. When they first asked me about our plan for the Tournament, I was so exhausted that I just told them to try hard, have fun, and then I promptly left to go drink Alice's potion before all my sleep caught up to me.

But Emmit and Jade and Sailor had tracked me down and insisted we do something. Some way to bring attention to our Clan at the Arena. The stakes for a new Clan were pretty high. Being crushed by the other Clans, especially Tower, wouldn't make us popular. We'd just be the latest in a long line of new Clans that never got off the ground. There wasn't much more training we could do, however, so we came up with a little something and Jade got to work making it happen.

The net result was that Lotus wasn't hanging out in a big clump. We didn't have strategies to plan. "This isn't Ender's Game," I'd told them all at the courtyard. "Go hang out. And when it comes time, just do your best."

I am a great leader of men and women, obviously. A real source of inspiration.

But what was I supposed to do? All the actual figures of power here kept their distance from the rest of us. I didn't have much in the way of inspiration.

I watched Jet. He always had his Chi out, and he rested his hand calmly on the pommel. His gaze wandered, and he was constantly keeping tabs on the procession and the area around it. When I occasionally caught a glimpse of the side of his face, he didn't look particularly worried, but that didn't mean anything. Big brother is always watching, I thought as he scanned the area. What was he looking for?

"Kiara doesn't look like she's too worried about her fight," said Jade.

"With who? Jet?" I asked.

"I can't see Dante coming down for a sparring session, can you?"

"I guess not." Dante was blind, but I doubted he was any less deadly for it. "Where is she?"

"Up ahead with Alice. Look at that fire, how light it is."

She was dressed, as usual, in a scarlet scarf that wrapped around her body, leaving generous portions of tan, creamy skin exposed. But Jade didn't mean that—for some reason, after being taken by Shae, Jade had begun to see the four elements in everything. I supposed I could see the fire—Kiara's scarf also happened to be her Chi, so it was deadly. I once heard that she'd used it to choke a freshly arrived Zero she was "briefing", and he'd just up and died in the bed. It was probably just a myth—she seemed like such a sunny person, chatting and laughing amiably with Alice. But you never knew with the Odieh.

Jade yawned. "I'm surprised nobody's gotten their nose bloodied yet over who gets to walk behind them."

"Location, location, location," said Sailor.

"It's a true saying. People pay more for real estate with a view," I said.

Sailor hooked his thumbs around his brown vest. "Why do you think I wear this thing all the time?" Sometimes he went shirtless underneath it, but today he wore his vest over a simple blue shirt. Not that there are complicated shirts, so to speak—I don't believe Caer'Aton had been introduced to the graphic tee yet.

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