Gresyl Mercenaries HQ: Ace's Meeting Room

Inside the large room was a round table and at this round table sat four of Gresyl's strongest mercenaries. They were the Four Holy Guardians of Gresyl. They each sat with varying patience, waiting for their leader to arrive to the meeting that he had called. Each member of the group sat ends opposite to another at the table. No one was sitting directly next to another. Not too many moments later the door to the room swung open and a tall man with green hair and eyes stepped inside. He wore a long black jacket with green trim and black pants. He had pale skin and wore glasses.

As he walked over to take his seat at the table, one of the members of the Holy Guardians started off the conversation.

"Well now that everyone's here it looks like this meeting can officially start," he said.

"Right, what was it that you called us here for sir?" spoke another.

The Ace put his hands together slowly. He leaned forward in his seat and placed his elbows on the round table. He looked around and spoke.

"For the past couple of months now there's been a good flow of money coming in. In the last six months there's been only seven failed missions," he started off. Everyone in the room nodded agreeing that this was a pretty good statistic.

He continued. "Now I may be reading too optimistically into this but I think that our mercenaries are getting better, stronger, specifically the Novices."

One of the members sat back in her seat and smirked. "I think I know where this is going. Are you going to propose promotions sir?" she inquired.

"That's right Sirza," the Ace confirmed.

"I was thinking this was going to be about that," another one of the Guardians spoke. His first time opening his mouth since the meeting started.

"This is good," he continued. "Ner's mercenaries have been getting more and more hostile lately. I feel like the violence is going to hit Gresyl soon and if anything happens we'll need more commanding officers out there."

"Now, Loze, that's a damn good point and all but a few problems come to mind," spoke another member, taking a break from the tea that he had prepared while waiting for the meeting to begin. "First of all, however many missions are being completed successfully by these kids, there's no guarantee that they'd be in the least bit qualified to do things right as Journeymen. We can't forget that Novice teams are led by a Captain. Who's to say that the Captain isn't the main reason for all this success? And what about those seven failed missions? They were failed for a reason weren't they? What if it was some amateur mistake made by one of these Novices that cost that mission its success? I'm always up for increasing our power in the ranks but handing out promotions here and there isn't going to help anyone," he finished and went back to his tea.

"Point well made. This is why you're one of the Guardians Anjo. Without your cynicism to put down my ideas, who would keep me in check?" the Ace joked, grinning towards Anjo.

"Well that's a pretty good point Anjo, but why would we randomly give out promotions? That makes no sense to me," one stated, slowly leaning back in his chair, hands in pockets.

"And that's part of why I called up this meeting. I figured you all would probably be on board for this but I don't know how to decide who to promote. Of course I guess I shouldn't have assumed that everyone would agree with me," the Ace said looking again at Anjo. Anjo returned his look and took another sip of his tea.

"I think Anjo would be on board so long as we're not giving power to the wrong people" Sirza interjected. "I mean he makes a good point. We'd only be destroying ourselves if we upped the wrong type of people."

Anjo nodded in approval. His silence denoted that he had said his share for now. That is, until someone else says something for him to disagree with.

"Wonderful, so what are we thinking? How can we properly do this?" the Ace asked with calm enthusiasm.

"I have an idea," one spoke up to say, his hands still in his pockets.

"So tell me then Kutzrose. Don't keep me waiting," the Ace told him, excited to hear his proposition.

Kutzrose smiled. "We could hold a tournament."

Everyone's facial expression changed from whatever it had been at the time to one of astonishment.

"What the hell Kutzrose?" Loze spoke out first.

"Yeah, you see I knew I'd get this kind of response. That's why I was a little hesitant in telling you all."

"I'm not kidding Kutzrose. You want these kids to just run around killing each other?" Loze replied. "One thing that we promote as mercenaries is avoiding the abuse of power as a Connector. Their skills are dangerous. It's not something for fun. This isn't some sick game. Bonds can kill. If we held a tournament people would die."

"Hey there's no need to be so harsh on him," the Ace said with a smile. "It would be simple enough to moderate the tournament so that nothing gets out of hand. But I'll bet that Kutzrose had already thought of that, isn't that right?"

"Of course sir," Kutzrose said in reply as he looked over at Loze, his mouth slowly creeping into a smile. Loze glared at him with a look that reeked of disapproval and slowly turned away.

"Alright so we're holding a tournament, but we're not just going to put every Novice team on the roster are we?" Anjo asked.

"That's true we can't just have everyone joining in on the fun," Kutzrose added.

"Well there are a few teams that I'd like to include," the Ace said, "specifically Squads 14 and 49."

"You mean Black and Riz's teams?" Sirza asked. "Well that makes sense; before Kutzrose and Loze got here they were part of the Four Holy Guardians too. Clearly the two teams trained by them would be exceptional."

"Yeah that's exactly what I was thinking," chimed the Ace.

"Well this is interesting. Personally I'd like to see how that kid Schwarz would hold up against the others. He's of Bloodfield lineage and trained by Riz. The kid must be a monster of a Connector," Anjo said enthusiastically.

"Possibly but I don't think that his team is as skilled as he is. They might even hold him back. Remember they have that Jin boy, Steill Hellion," Loze started. "Jins are hardly trustworthy let alone useful for anything other than causing trouble. Besides that I doubt that even Schwarz could hold up against some of the other more experienced contenders, especially kids like Heidegger. Have you seen that kid's Bond? It's terrifying," he finished.

"That's true and he's dangerously competent too. I can only imagine what he'd be like when he gains a Correlation," Sirza said.

"When? You sound so sure that he's going to get one," Anjo replied.

"Yes, I think it's bound to happen eventually," she responded.

The Ace sat back in his chair and relaxed. There was going to be a tournament soon and he was anxious to start arrangements but also happy to see his subordinates chatting over whom would beat who. His gaze turned over to Kutzrose who was sitting silently with his hands in his pockets, grinning. Kutzrose looked over towards the Ace and the Ace looked back and they both smiled.

3 weeks later: Gresyl Mercenaries HQ

"Steill, you really should stop being so aggressive. You almost failed that mission for us!" Grace told Steill, scolding him as she and the rest of Squad 49 walked into the Task Offices to turn in their mission report.

"Whatever, that old bitch was way out of line." Steill retorted. "I tried being nice to her but she wouldn't stop testing my patience. She's lucky she's not dead."

"Yeah right, Steill. You're lucky YOU'RE not dead. You try and talk big but you always come up short. You're nothing but a failure kid," Schwarz replied.

Steill's eyes opened wide as he grit his teeth and his brow curled in anger.

"Don't tempt me into destroying you Schwarz. You don't know what I'm capable of. I'll demolish you as soon as I get the chance!" Steill yelled, his voice loaded with rage.

"Don't bother, I'd chop you into pieces before you could touch me," Schwarz said with his hand on the handle of his sword.

"Quit it you two," Riz interceded. "There's no need for you boys to be making a scene. And there's definitely no need for you two to try and kill each other. We're a team."

Riz looked at the both of them until they had calmed down. He proceeded to walk to the main desk and handed in the report. After all was done the desk worker handed him a sheet of paper.

"What's this?" Riz asked.

"It's an invitation to the tournament being held in the coming weeks," the desk worker replied.

The word "tournament" caught both Schwarz and Steill's attention.

"Why is there going to be a tournament?" he inquired.

"It's to see which Novices are worthy of promotion into Journeymen," she replied.

"What? Way cool! We got invited to a tournament? Hell yes! I can't wait!" Steill yelled with obvious enthusiasm.

"It's okay to be excited, but I'm telling you right now that this is a team tournament. You and Schwarz are never going to fight each other during it," Riz said hoping to keep Steill's enthusiasm for team violence to a minimum.

"Wait a minute, if this is a tournament for promotion does that mean only one team can get promoted?" Grace asked.

"No actually," the desk worker answered. "The Ace is going to be there and he'll be watching the whole thing. He's going to choose who gets promoted and who doesn't based on what he observes."

A tournament between the other Novices? Come to think of it I haven't really interacted with any of the other Novices. It'll be good to see what they're capable of. I can't wait…