A/N: Whew. Finally got this out. You know what I hate? I keep having new ideas for new stories, but zilch for the stories I have right now. Sorry to those who are waiting for updates. Hopefully some part of my life will give birth to a spring of inspiration.
So enjoy. Don't fall asleep.
P.S.- This story does not take place on Earth. Hopefully that is obvious. It's some random fantasy world.
"Kylie, get up!"
Kylie hissed in pain as she attempted to get up. A sword stuck out of her shoulder and several wounds marred her body, making it extremely painful to move. Finally, she made it to her feet to face her sneering adversary. He was a Zechyron, the biggest race. His dark red eyes stared menacingly at her and his muscles rippled under his dark skin, telling Kylie everything she needed to know.
She dodged to the side as a sword whizzed past, making another small cut on her arm. Using her depleting store of mana, she powered her legs and jumped up onto one of the pillars that dotted the large Arena. She landed with a wince, nearly falling off as a spasm of pain racked her body.
Another sword flew unerringly at her, and she barely dodged, the sword scraping the unprotected skin of her midriff. Damn raiment, she thought, it reveals too much of my skin and doesn't do squat for protecting me. It's all for the amusement of the audience to see a tiny girl like me against that hulk of a Zechyron Gordo.
She jumped to another pillar and knocked another sword out of the air. Suddenly, her eyes widened. That's it!
As soon as she landed, she turned towards Gordo and launched herself headfirst at him.
He started laughing. "Girl, you don't know just how big of a fucking mistake you just made," he said, and clapped his hands together.
"Storm of Blades!" he roared, and the air was suddenly full of the presence of magic. His swords levered themselves out of their sheathes and raced towards her.
She whipped out her twin falchions and started deflecting the swords. Sword after sword came, and still she deflected them.
Gordo's eyes widened as he saw her burst out of his cloud of swords. "No…" he breathed. "My most powerful attack?"
Those were his last words. Kylie hit him feet first, driving him to the ground. She stood and instead of slitting his throat like she was trained to, she stabbed him through the heart. The crowd roared in triumph, amazed at her performance.
Two regulators walked out. Gordo's Master cowered and screamed in fear. "No, no, don't kill me, please!" he cried, and collapsed to his knees in front of them. "Take my wife, my children, anyone, just don't kill me!" he begged.
One of the regulators unsheathed a large executioner's sword from his back. With a cold expression, he said clearly, "Die." With one swing, he beheaded the Master.
The second one carried a scroll. He walked up to Sonia, Kylie's Master.
"Sir," asked Kylie, "Is there a problem?"
He completely ignored her and stopped in front of Sonia. "Master, you have breached the contract," he announced, to the shock of the crowd. Sonia and Kylie were frequent fighters, and had become one of their favorites. Some shouted in disbelief, others kept silent in fear of the regulators.
"Section 7 Law 3a: A Master shall not give money to their Fighter's family or loved ones. Punishment: Termination of the contract."
The crowd erupted, and Kylie stood there, shocked. Had Sonia really done so? It was explicitly forbidden for a Master to help the family of their Fighter, and for Sonia to risk that for her?
"Terms of the termination is as follows. The Master shall never bond with this Fighter, nor give benefit to anyone seriously involved with this Fighter. The Fighter is to be imprisoned, for a maximum of one month, in which a Master much bond with her, or she will be executed."
Sonia gave a little gasp. The regulator walked up to the stunned Kylie and fastened several handcuffs on her wrists, each inscribed with several runes to prevent the casting of magic. "Move," he ordered, and pushed her forwards. Sonia was dragged off by the other regulator.
"Kylie!" she cried, "It's all my fault! I'm so sorry!" Everyone knew she probably wouldn't be bonded. Only certain people could bond with others, and that's what made fights interesting, to see two compatible people team up and fight another team.
Kylie looked back. The last thing she saw was Sonia's face, twisted by an expression of regret and genuine sadness before the gate slammed down behind them, sealing them into the dark depths of the Arena underworks.
A door opened above her. Soon, a bag of food sailed down, landing with a dull thump on the sandy floor. Kylie rushed to it as soon as she heard the door close, and blindly opened it. She devoured the bland food and gulped down half of the metallic tasting water. It had been nearly a day since the last time they'd fed her.
After eating, she sat back against the rough, stone wall. She combed her fingers through her ratty hair, trying to undo the tangles and clean the sand that matted her hair. It was a hopeless cause. She yawned and shivered, drawing the tattered remains of her clothing around her.
Kylie felt the wall beside her, and froze. Twenty nine ticks. There was only a couple days until her execution. It was likely that no one would come for her. No one would bond with her. Sonia was the only one that had bonded with her, even after two years of fruitless searching. Her family was nearly starved to death by then, and she had very nearly succumbed to the hunger.
What would they do once she died? The steady stream of money coming from her victories in the Arena would be cut off. Her mom had died the year before, and her sisters were too young to work. Her dad had abandoned them once he lost his job, so they couldn't depend on him.
She sighed and pulled up her knees, hugging them to her chest. Hopefully they could survive and get a job, even if it was illegal.
The door opened again. She froze, hardly daring to hope. The only times they opened the door was for food. Could it be?
Murmured conversation was heard. Then a cry of surprise.
Kylie jerked back as a man landed with a thump on the sandy floor. A very dim magelight flickered on, and even though it was so dim, Kylie winced and covered her eyes. A month without light was not the best when a light was turned on.
His hand reached out and touched her forehead. Relief blossomed within her as her fingernail began to glow, signifying a compatible person.
She couldn't make out the details of the man's face, as it was covered in shadow. But she could tell that he was taller (not a big surprise), and lean, not like the muscular Gordo. He also had the stark white hair of a Shazonian. Strange. Shazonian's were very rare, as they rarely, if ever, left their home country of Shazonia. They completely detested outsiders, convinced that they were superior. And the truth was, they usually were. Unrivaled speed and intellect second only to the Vyjourns, with the right weapons and training, a Shazonian could become an unparalleled Fighter. But why was this one a Master? Sure, they had the intellect, but it was a waste of their talents.
The first words she uttered after nearly a full month of silence was, "Is Sonia okay?" Her voice sounded raspy to her, unused and rusty.
"Yes, she Bonded with Paul Wang," he answered. Kylie felt relieved. She had fought Paul in a duel, and she had become fast friends with him. He was a good Fighter, good for Sonia.
"Oh, that's good." A tear slipped out of her eye, and she felt surprised. Had she really become that attached to Sonia, after only three months of Fighting for her?
"Are you here to Bond with me?" she asked, staring at the man's face, waiting desperately for an answer of assent.
"That's your decision," he answered. The light slowly became brighter. Kylie shielded her eyes and looked away. When the light stopped getting brighter, she cautiously opened her eyes to see the man's face.
He was younger than she thought he would be, with that deep voice of his. He was about a year older than her sixteen years. His skin was tanned and his eyes were…
Her hand flew to her mouth. His eyes were mismatched. The right was the usual blue of a Shazonian. But the left was the dark, glittering red of a Zechyron. A half-breed. Not only that, but a long white scar marred his face, neck, and shoulder. It was thin and shallow, starting from the left side of his chin. It disappeared at his neck, but resumed and grew much bigger at his collarbone. It disappeared into his black shirt. His left hand was also clothed in a black leather gauntlet.
"So you have a choice," he said. "Bond with a lowly half-breed like me," at this, he grimaced, "or be executed in six hours."
"Yeah, they moved up the execution date."
Kylie sighed. It was to be expected. The regulators were cruel and cold, some of the things they did had no reason, but it was just to satisfy their need for "entertainment".
"What other choice do I have?" she asked, rhetorically.
The guy nodded. "My name is Garrett Jankowski," he said. He pulled a small dagger out of the sheath on his waist and opened a small cut on his thumb. He held it above Kylie's mouth, and let a drop of blood fall. As it entered her mouth, he started the incantation.
"I hereby enter into this contract as a Master to a Fighter, let our paths be forever intertwined as long as this contract lasts. I seal this contract with my blood, and I claim this Fighter as mine alone."
To which Kylie replied, "I hereby accept this contract, as Fighter to Master, let our paths be forever intertwined. My Master has sealed this contract with his blood, and so I am my Master's alone." She swallowed the blood and gasped as the mark of the contract slithered onto her arm.
Every contract had a unique symbol for the contractees. Most were intricate, and nearly impossible to draw from memory. Kylie's was no different.
The mark ingrained itself into her skin. It was like a permanent indentation, not like a tattoo or a crest. It climbed up from her wrist, and continued up to her shoulder.
Finally, it was done. Kylie caught her breath, then looked down at it. It was like a coiling sleeve of thorny vines, like it had a mind of its own.
Amazingly, Garrett chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Kylie asked.
Garrett coughed unconvincingly and said, "Nothing." He snorted. His shoulders started shaking.
"What?" Kylie repeated. She could see Garrett visibly trying to restrain himself.
He finally calmed himself down and held out a hand. "Let's go," he said, motioning to her.
"Well, how do you think you're going to get out? That's why you're still in this rat-hole, right?"
Garrett smiled innocently. "Don't worry, I won't bite…much."
Kylie sighed. She wasn't going to get out of this unharmed. She stepped towards him and took his hand.
He pulled her towards him and embraced her. Kylie was about to smack him when he jumped upwards, taking her with him.
His light faded as they landed in a well-lit doorway. Garrett was about to let go of Kylie when her legs started shaking. Kylie cursed her prison conditions. She hadn't gotten near the amount of food she needed. Her body was suffering from it now.
"Here," Garrett said, and set her arm around his shoulders. He had to bend over and walk, since he was so much taller than the tiny Kylie.
They passed the stunned guard, who usually operated a wind spell to let people up and down.
"Your next match is four days from now," Garrett said. "During this time, you'll recover and regain strength, as well as spar. But I don't want you regaining muscle. That would be counterproductive."
"Eh?" asked Kylie. The last time she was in this situation, and as far as she knew, it was standard procedure to try and regain as much muscle before a match, so if the Fighter's mana supply ran out, they could rely on their physical strength.
Garrett sighed and ran a hand through his unruly hair. "Your fighting style, as much as I've seen of it, revolves around speed. You didn't lose too much muscle in prison, so I want you rested and as full of energy as possible. Besides, I've got a trick up my sleeve, so just rest. We'll win." His voice was so full of certainty that Kylie kicked his shin. "Yeowch!"
"Don't ever say that," she scolded him as he nursed his wound. "Saying that will make you overconfident, and you'll make mistakes because of that."
Garrett shook his head. "I'm not just saying we're going to win because I'm naïve," he said. "I am an experienced combatant, and I am saying we'll win because I've taken all of our abilities and put them into consideration." He sighed again. "You'll just have to trust me."
A couple minutes passed. Then Kylie looked around. "Where are we going?"
Garrett looked at her sheepishly. "I got no idea, I'm just walking. This is my first time being here." He laughed uncertainly.
Kylie moaned and facepalmed.
"Well here's our room."
"We could've gotten here faster if we hadn't made that wrong turn back there."
"S-shut up Garrett! It's not like you know your way around!"
Garrett had to laugh at the sight of the tiny Kylie attempting to stare at him at eye level on her toes and failing. He patted her head and walked past.
"Is there any food? I'm starving." He rummaged through the cupboard and found an apple. He checked it for bad spots, and, not finding any, took a bite out of it.
He followed Kylie to the three doors located in the back. "Here's my room," he said, motioning to the door on the right. "The bathroom is straight ahead, and your room is on the left."
Kylie nodded and walked into her room. She closed the door behind her and stripped. She didn't even consider washing off the grime coating her body, just slid on a nightgown and collapsed on the bed.
"Hey, wake up." Garrett prodded Kylie, already fully dressed. Today, he was wearing black leather trousers with a red shirt and brown jacket. He again wore the black glove. He poked Kylie again.
"Nnnno, jusshhht aa biiiissht morrrressss," she mumbled and turned over, clutching the covers to her.
Garrett just shook his head, lifted her arm, and jabbed his finger into one of her pressure points. He was rewarded by a yelp and a thud as Kylie fell out of bed.
"Owww," she grumbled, and rubbed her head, tousling her already messy hair. One of the straps to her nightgown had fallen down her shoulder, and there was a red spot on her arm where Garrett had poked her. "Alright, alright, I'm up already."
"Good, because we're going out soon."
Kylie ignored him and stretched, still on the ground. "Ooohhh, it feels so good to get some rest in a real bed for once." She stood up and wobbled slightly. "I'm going to the bathroom. Don't follow me." She set off towards the bathroom, tottering slightly and giving off the biggest yawn that Garrett had ever seen.
Garrett rolled his eyes and walked out of the room. He stood by the doorway, arms folded.
Eventually, Kylie came out in a short black skirt and a red shirt. Her black hair was neat and pulled into a ponytail.
"So where are we going?" she asked.
"A friend of mine. He's an underground marketer."
"What? That's illegal. We'll be killed if we're caught."
Garrett looked at her and grinned. "So we don't get caught."
Kylie looked around. "Are you sure this is the right place?" She had expected a dark, rundown area of the city, with shady people all around, not the wealthy side of the district. The streets were spotless and the people immaculately dressed. Fortunately, their clothes were not too formal and expensive, so Garrett and Kylie didn't stand out.
Garrett explained. "You didn't expect an underground dealer here, right? That's the whole point." He walked up to a house no different than any of the rest and knocked. Three raps, then two raps, and then five raps.
Five seconds passed, then the door opened to reveal a woman, in her fifties. She was dressed stylishly and had none of the old person fashion that made Kylie want to go, "Eew."
"Oh, Daniel, it's so nice to see you!" she exclaimed, and swept Garrett up into a hug.
He returned it with a grin. "Auntie Marie! It's been too long. How's your nephew? Did he give you grandchildren yet?"
"Oh Daniel, it's wonderful! He gave me triplets! Triplets, can you believe it?"
Kylie glanced between the two. She sensed something was going on and was wise enough not to interfere.
Marie released "Daniel" and stepped back to look at Kylie. "And who's this? Is she your Fighter?"
Garrett stepped between them. "Yep, real beaut', ain't she? By the way, is Uncle Gary here?"
Marie nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, yes dear, come with me and I'll show you his study." She moved past them and closed the door.
Garrett and Kylie followed her as she walked up to a room with two large wooden doors. With a strength that defied her small stature, Marie heaved open the doors to reveal a large study. Bookcases were lined up against each wall and the center of the room was dominated by a large wooden desk.
Garrett and Kylie walked in, followed by the sound of the wooden doors being closed. Kylie looked back in alarm. Marie had disappeared, presumably behind the doors.
Garrett spoke. "Don't worry, it's just procedure." He walked up to one of the bookcases and started counting the books. He pulled one out, and just like that, the bookcase rotated to reveal a dark passageway leading down. He stepped into it, and Kylie followed.
The passageway was dimly lit by Garrett's magelight. The walls were unevenly cut and supported by hastily erected wooden beams. Kylie kept wondering if the walls would cave in.
After about ten minutes of walking, a light appeared far along the path. As they grew closer, Kylie could start to see details of the room ahead of them. The first thing she saw was a rack of swords. As they grew closer, Kylie saw more and more racks of every kind of weapon she knew, and some that she didn't know.
Garrett entered the room and marveled at it. Umar had really expanded his stock since he'd last been here.
"Hello!" A short, chubby man poked his head over one of the racks. His hair was slightly gray and he had a towel flipped over his shoulder.
"Hey Umar!" Garrett greeted. The man gave him an enthusiastic wave and moved to meet him.
Kylie was scanning the racks of weapons. There were so many, and they all looked high quality. She recoiled as Umar popped up in front of her. He stared at her body, and Kylie flushed until she realized that the stare wasn't perverted, but rather the data-gathering stare of a professional.
"Ah, you're a swordsman, and a dual wielder at that. Single edged swords, most likely curved. Nice muscle on the legs, must be a speed fighter, and not too many scars, that's good," Umar muttered almost unintelligibly as he inspected her from all angles. "Nice calluses on the hands, she must switch grips often. Slim frame, muscles with almost no fat. Aha!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I have just the swords for you."
He scampered away into the back. A clang was heard along with a muttered, "Oof…" More clangs and thuds, then Umar reappeared, with a lump on his head and two naked swords held loosely in his hands.
The swords were about the same size as her falchions, well suited for both forehand and backhand grips. The grips were wrapped in good rough cloth and the blades looked very well-forged, with a metal Kylie had never seen before. There was nothing flashy about the swords except for runes inscribed on the blades.
Kylie could feel powerful enchantments from the blades, much more powerful than she had ever seen or felt before. The runes also looked unfamiliar to her, she couldn't make heads or tails of them. Along with the runes, there was a small ruby embedded in the base of each blade, for the storage of mana for both the wielder and the enchantment.
"Are these satisfactory, miss?" Umar asked eagerly. He handed them to her. She grasped them firmly and tested the balance. They were perfectly balanced, and the grips the perfect size for her hands.
Garrett noticed her satisfaction with the blades. "Good job, Umar. I'll take them. But I want something for myself too."
Kylie whipped her head around to look at Garrett. Umar wept with joy. "Oh Daniel, you finally took me up on my request! Here, let me fetch it."
Umar disappeared again into the back of the shop. Kylie stalked up to Garrett.
"Why do you need a weapon?" she demanded. "I am your Fighter, and you should not fight, being my Master."
Garrett sighed. "It's just for protection. It's not like the opposing Fighter is going to ignore me. I need a way to defend myself. It's a good strategy to go after the opponent's Master."
Kylie was unhappy about it, but couldn't deny his logic.
Umar came puffing back from the depths of the room. In one hand, he held the two scabbards for Kylie's swords. In the other hand was a small black ball. Kylie stared at it. It didn't even come close to any of the weapons she'd seen.
Garrett grinned. "You finished it already? You devil, Umar, you said it would take three years, not two and a half."
Umar grinned happily. "I had some extra time on my hands. It's fully enchanted and ready for use. His name is Nakama." He chucked the ball at Garrett. A scream echoed through the room.
Kylie instantly readied her swords, on the defensive. Garrett just laughed and caught the ball. "Calm down Kylie, it's just Nakama."
The ball groaned. "Itai…" it gasped. Then it huffed. "Damn it, Umar, don't do that! You scared the crap out of me!"
Kylie lowered her swords, shocked. "What the hell is that?"
Nakama said indignantly, "My name is Nakama, so get it right, wench!"
Kylie exploded. "Wench!? Oh, you're going to get it!" She charged at Garrett, who, surprised, dropped Nakama.
"AAAHHHHH!" Nakama shrieked, and bounced away frantically. The next few minutes were spent trying to restrain Kylie while Nakama squealed, "Devil woman! Freaky lady! Help me!" Eventually, Kylie calmed down, and Nakama finally stopped screaming.
Kylie glowered at Garrett. "What's so good about that tiny prick of a ball you got there?"
Garrett sighed. He was nursing a large bruise on his cheek where Kylie had whacked him. "He's a specialty item of Umar. He's a weapon morpher. He can morph into a variety of weapons, as many as I can think of. He works perfectly with my ability."
Kylie arched an eyebrow. "Ability? Care to demonstrate?"
Nakama grunted. "Why the hell would he show his ability to a dirty woman?"
Kylie's eye twitched. "Because that woman Fights for him and needs to know his abilities if they want to win in a fight."
Nakama jiggled. "Oh, right, since women can fight soooo well, right? Well, maybe a flat-chested one like you could."
Kylie's other eye twitched.
"Careful," Garrett cautioned, "don't get her angry. You'll surely regret it."
Nakama grumbled. "Well, I better show her what I can do, since we men are so much better. Haiyah!" With a flash, he expanded to become a scythe as black as the midnight sky. It would've been more impressive if he hadn't knocked over Kylie in the process.
"Whoops. Oh well," he muttered. Kylie got back up, and it took all of her self-control to not unleash her rage on him.
Garrett sighed. "Umar, didn't you put the finishing touches on him?"
Umar grinned. "Those are the finishing touches."
"You didn't have to make him sexist!"
"Well, I figured you would have a male Fighter, since a good percentage of them are." Garrett was about to put Nakama away when he realized that he wasn't in his hand. He looked up to see Nakama bouncing rapidly away from Kylie, who, Garrett noted with relief, had sheathed her swords. He facepalmed, then stepped into Nakama's path and kicked him. He went up, hit the ceiling, and spun down to land in Garrett's palm.
"Do not insult my Fighter anymore," he warned Nakama.
The ball huffed, "But Masterrrrr…."
Garrett bounced him off the floor and ceiling again. "Am I clear?" he said mildly.
Nakama was gasping in shock. "Yes, Master," he managed to gasp.
Kylie was seething. Garrett laid a hand on her shoulder. "Sorry, but he must stay with us. For our safety."
Kylie glared at him. "I can protect you well enough."
"But what if you're not there? Then what will you do?"
Kylie sagged. Then, "I can't read you."
Garrett raised his eyebrows, confused. "What?"
Kylie sighed. "All my life, I learned to read body language. By the time I was twelve, I could read them so well that I could predict people's moves and actions a couple minutes in advance. But you keep betraying these expectations. I expect you to do one thing by the way you act, but you end up doing something completely different."
Garrett looked away. "I suppose it's because of who I am," he muttered softly.
"What do you mean?"
He looked pointedly at the humming Umar and said, "Tell you later."
Garrett and Kylie were walking down the street, away from Umar's place. As they walked, people shied away as they saw Garrett's eyes. Kylie shook her head and turned to Garrett. She was about to speak when she noticed his hair.
"Garrett?" He didn't acknowledge her. "Garrett!"
"Eh?" he said, turning towards her.
"Why are the roots of your hair black? I thought you had the hair of a Shazonian."
Garrett suddenly looked regretful. "So it's been that long since I used it. I've become soft." He turned towards Kylie. "Go back to the room. I need to go take care of some business."
"But I have to stay near…"
"Kylie, go. Now." His voice suddenly had a darker tone to it.
Kyile recoiled, then bowed stiffly. "As you wish," she said coldly. Turning on the heel of her foot, she strode away, heading towards the general direction of their room.