After a few days had passed, the day of the tournament had finally arrived. Steill, Grace, and I stood before the entrance of the building that held the tournament. It was a massive structure, one of the largest buildings in the Gresyl's capitol city. After admiring the size of the giant building I decided to lead the way inside. I opened the double doors and immediately I felt an intense heaviness overcome my body. I could feel an immensity of Link throughout every bit of my body. My lips slowly curled into a smirk upon my face as I stared down the many individuals that stood in the main lobby of the building. They all looked at us with fierce determination. The intense Link that I felt was them. It was there killing intent all bearing down on me at once.
Good, at least our opponents seem serious about winning. Let's hope this tournament doesn't disappoint me.
People were everywhere. Most of them were Novices, participants in the tournament no doubt. There were other people though. The tournament turned out to be a pretty big event with the audience turnout being rather high, it seemed. I looked around at everybody, all of whom seemed to be busy.
So what do we do now?
I looked behind me to see Steill and Grace still taking in the whole thing. Grace seemed overwhelmed at how large the place was on the inside and how many people were here. If she's amazed now, she might go into shock when she sees the actual arena. Steill on the other hand seemed to be scoping out the competition. His facial expression was visibly gruff. He looked around at everybody. He was beginning to catch glares from other competitors. The dumb bastard was attracting attention to us.
"Yo!" I heard a familiar voice yell out. I turned toward the crowd to see Riz standing among them. He walked towards us.
"What's up crew? You guys psyched for this tournament?" Riz asked.
"Hells yeah I'm psyched," Steill answered immediately. "Do you know how hard I've been training for this tournament? I can't wait to dominate everyone."
"That's a good mindset, but remember, you're not the only one who's been training," Riz told him.
"No, but I will be the only one who will be winning," Steill said with sickening confidence.
"Hey Captain, what do we do now?" Grace asked.
"Have you all gotten your participation passes yet?" he asked. Grace shook her head, speaking for all of us.
"Go over to that front desk," he said as he pointed to said desk, "and show them your IDs. The receptionist should hand you all your passes."
"Thanks!" Grace said as we all walked past him to head to the desk.
"Hey guys," Riz said, not turning to face us as he spoke. "I'm glad you all made it out here. Do the best you can. Whether you win or lose doesn't matter. Even if you lose you can still be promoted. All that matters is the drive to fight and push forward. Remember that," he finished as he walked off.
After we got our passes we were instructed to wait for an announcement over the intercom system. Once the announcement was made we would head over to the arena. Until then we had a few minutes of free time so we decided to stand amongst the rest of the competitors.
"Man, in only a few minutes we'll be able to rock this tournament to its core," Steill said while looking eagerly at his pass.
"Steill calm down. We don't know how strong any of these people really are. They might be way out of our league," Grace said.
"They can't be that tough if they're Novices," Steill said nonchalantly.
"What an excellent observation from the Jin," I heard a voice say. I looked up to see Squad 14 approaching us. The lobby up until this point had been quite noisy with all the people there but fell to near silence as soon as Hirakos opened his mouth and stepped up to us.
"What'd you call me asshole?" Steill said as he got right in Hirakos's face.
"All I said was that you made a good point Jin," Hirakos said. "You are a Jin aren't you? Your accent kind of gives it away and you sure act like one," he said calmly. He smiled that terribly smug smile that he had and took a step back. At the same time, his teammates took steps forward and kept the distance between Steill and Hirakos.
"Hey Schwarz, get a hold of your pet. I think he might be rabid," Hirakos said. I could tell the "pet" comment didn't sit too well with Steill. Just as he was about to open his mouth to say something, I stepped in front of him, getting between him and Hirakos' team.
"Hirakos why are antagonizing my team? Don't you and your rejects have something better to do?" I told him.
Hirakos let out a small chuckle. "Oh my, you sure have grown some balls to be able to talk to me like that. It's almost like you forgot how our little scuffle went."
"We called it a draw, remember?" I said.
Hirakos just smiled. "Yeah I remember."
Two older members of the crowd began to discuss what was going on.
"Isn't that Schwarz Bloodfield of the Bloodfield family?" one older man in red said.
"It is. He seems to be butting heads with that Moonfang boy, Hirakos," another older man in blue replied.
"That Hirakos boy better watch himself. The Bloodfield family always has very strong Connectors among its members," the man in red stated.
"That's true but I wouldn't count him out. Rumor has it that he's very strong. I heard that despite his rank, he's practically at Journeyman level already," said the blue man.
"Really, he's at that skill level already? That does change things," the red man commented.
"Yes it does, but we don't know how strong Bloodfield is. All we know is that he's strong," said the man in blue.
"I wonder, what kind of Bond does Bloodfield possess?" inquired the red man.
"It's called the Reaper of Shadows. I haven't seen it in use before but it's quite fierce from what I've heard. It feeds off of Schwarz's emotion and materializes it into black Link that he can manipulate. I'm actually quite eager to see it in action," answered the man in blue.
"That's very interesting. What about the others in his squad? Do you know what they can do?" the red man asked.
"Yes actually I do. I work at the Trainee school so I was able to read up on their files. When I got to Bloodfield I was, of course, intrigued as to who his teammates were," the blue man said.
"Well, tell me then," said the man in red.
"The girl's name is Grace Voltaire. Her Bond is called Camellia. It externally exerts Link outward. This can be used in two ways: static and dynamic. When used statically the Link stops right outside the user's body and can be used as a shield. When used dynamically the Link keeps going in whatever direction the user chooses. I heard that because she's not very good offensively she prefers to shield herself with Link so that she can observe her opponents and strategize," the man in blue said.
"She must be a very intelligent young girl. Now what about the boy?" the red man asked.
"Him? That's Steill Hellion. He's just another Jin boy. I'm surprised that they even put a Bloodfield and a Jin on the same team. Anyway, his Bond is called the Reckless Surge. It's very basic, fitting for a Jin. All it does is enhance his physical attributes a bit," the blue man answered.
"That's it?" the man in red asked.
"Well it's a little more complex than that but observations hadn't figured out what. All we know is that he becomes more beast-like," the blue man said.
"Now that's definitely interesting. I can't wait to see him in action. What do you know about the other team, Squad 14?" the man in red asked.
"Not much, I had a chance to go through their files but they didn't become well known until later. All I know is the name of Hirakos Moonfang's Bond: Eye of the Shameless Night," the man in blue answered.
"That sounds terrifying. These children are all so skilled. I remember back at their age, I wasn't saving princesses and I certainly wasn't considered Journeyman level by anyone's standards," the man in red said.
"Indeed, and look at both Bloodfield and Moonfang. They both carry swords. I didn't begin to learn swordplay until well into my 20s," the blue man commented.
The red man nodded his head. "I think what we have is one of the greatest generations of Connectors that Gresyl has ever seen."
Hirakos' smile was getting old fast. He never stopped giving me the same smug look since the first time I'd seen him and I was getting tired of it.
"This time will be different," Hirakos started. "I won't stay restrained at ten percent Schwarz. I'm going to give it my all. Try not to lose before I get a chance to fight you," he finished as he and the rest of his team walked away. As they left, the noise and commotion reached full volume again.
"Looks like your little confrontation with Hirakos has gotten everyone all chatty," I heard someone say. I looked behind to find three people, all standing with their backs against the wall.
"Do you want trouble too?" I asked them.
"No not all. It's just that you've piqued our curiosity," said the one in the middle. He stopped leaning on the wall and walked towards me. When he got to me he held out his hand to shake.
"My name's Locke, Heidegger Locke. I'm part of Squad 17," he introduced. He was a young man that had tan skin and a slim, yet muscular build. He had messy, black hair and blue eyes. He wore an oversized bridge coat. It was navy blue with red on the cuff area and the lapels. I could tell it was oversized because the end of the sleeves reached his knees and the bottom of the jacket was at his calves. He didn't actually wear the coat; he simply had it draped on his shoulders. He wore a blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled. He also wore a red tie, dark blue jeans and black shoes.
"Those two back there are my teammates," he said as he pointed to the two individuals still standing by the wall. One was tall, the other…wasn't. The not tall one wore a green hooded jacket with the hood up, black shorts and black boots. Their red hair peeked out from under the hood. Their eyes were not visible but I could feel them watching me. The taller one had neat, swept back, black hair and brown eyes. He wore a black leather jacket over a golden colored t-shirt, black pants and gold colored boots. He also had sunglasses with gold colored lenses that rest atop the slicked back hair on his head.
"The hooded one is Nico. The golden boy is Frontaleaut," Heidegger said, introducing his teammates. "Guys get off the walls and say hello," he said as he waved them over here. Frontaleaut spoke first.
"What's up, we're Squad 17," he said.
"They know that already," Nico said. I didn't notice that she was a girl until she spoke. Steill and Grace then came up to us.
"Who are these guys?" Steill asked.
"What's up, we're Squad 17," Frontaleaut repeated for Steill and Grace. Squad 17 and Squad 49 were then formally introduced to each other.
"So what do you guys want?" I want I asked.
"Why do you think we have some sort of agenda? We just find you guys interesting is all," Heidegger said.
"Usually when people find us interesting they're looking for a fight," I told them.
Heidegger merely smiled a nonthreatening smile. "No no no, we're nothing like that. You see the thing is Hirakos is usually up our asses. We're not used to seeing the pink haired dickhead bully anyone else, so we thought maybe we should introduce ourselves," he said.
"Understandable enough I guess," Grace said.
"Heidegger was really clueless as to why Hirakos bully some crew of rookies," Frontaleaut told us.
"I was curious as to why Squad 14 showed interest in you guys but after your introduction I caught it quickly," he said as he scratched his chin. "Schwarz Bloodfield is often hailed as Gresyl's top Novice. You're the most accomplished out of any of us I'll say that's for sure, but…" he said. As his sentence trailed, his facial expression changed. The friendly smile present on his face died away, replaced by a stern frown. His eyes looked directly into mine and I could feel his presence inside me. It felt as though he was choking my Link with his Link, but that wasn't it.
That look, it's incredible. With just a look he's able to force my Link to disarray. Only people with at least professional level Link control can pull something like that off.
Heidegger released Schwarz from his powerful glare and turned back to his friendly faced self.
"…don't go getting the impression that you're the strongest out of all us," Heidegger finished finally.
"You are pretty powerful, I'll admit," I told him. "I wonder, between the two of us, who would win?"
"Are you always so violent Bloodfield?" he asked.
"…yes," I said.
"Don't mind him, he's just an asshole," Steill said. "He lets the whole 'I'm Gresyl's best' thing get to his head so he tries to act like a real tough guy around literally everybody."
"Really, because I think that more describes you Steill," Grace said.
"Nah, see there's a difference between when I act tough and when Schwarz acts tough. When Schwarz does it, it's because everyone thinks he's such hot shit, so it gets to his brain and rewires his thinking. When I do it, it's because I know I'm tough. People act like they can walk all over me, but my time will come," Steill proclaimed.
The two squads stayed silent for a bit until the silence was broken by Heidegger's laughter.
"I like you kid. What'd you say your name was again?" Heidegger asked.
"Steill Hellion," he answered. Heidegger put his arm over Steill's shoulder and walked him over to the wall where Squad 17 posted up before where they started to talk low.
"Hey listen man, I know you're an Orohan," Heidegger whispered.
"Well yeah, of course I am. I mean, I was born in Gresyl but my parents-," Steill started.
"No, as in I know that you're an Orohan and only and Orohan, not a Jin. Jins aren't real. It's just a word used to oppress foreigners from Oroh. Some people use the word like it's nothing. Assholes like Hirakos use it to put people down. Don't let him." Heidegger said.
Steill was shocked. He couldn't believe that anyone cared, especially a stranger. No one really cared whether people called Orohans Jins or not. No one ever really thought about how the Orohans felt.
"I'm just like you, you know. People always underestimated me. They always highlighted the faults and never paid any attention to the progress. But people grow. Don't let anyone get to you. All a man's got to him in this world is him and his ego. Don't let them crush your ego," he told Steill. He held out a fist which Steill bumped with his own fist and they made their way back to the rest of the group.
"Have a nice chat?" Nico asked. The tone in her voice always seemed very dry.
"Sure did," Steill answered. All of a sudden a voice on the intercom started to speak.
"The tournament will begin in five minutes. Would everyone involved in the tournament please head to the arena now? Thank you." The voice said before it cut off.
"Looks like that's our cue to head out," Grace said.
"Then let's go," Frontaleaut said.
"Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the very first Gresyl Mercenary Tournament. Here's how things are going down. There are eight teams and each of them has three members. Every team is going to have three one on one fights between the different members. Best two out of three wins. There are three rounds to this tournament. The third and final round will be a fight for the prize: a team promotion to the Journeyman! I am your announcer, Gambino. It's time for all you teenage hooligans to come on out and prove your worth. Here's the lineup!
14 vs. 7|5 vs. 53|17 vs. 13|11 vs. 49
Now let's begin!"