Saul had never seen a cloud before. He heard rumors about them – puffy, white manifestations of air and water that drizzled rain and occasionally lightning on the land below. Saul had also wanted to see one of these clouds. Too bad he would never get chance.
He stared up at the sky just like he always did in the mornings. A large dark mass was hovering in it. A country by the name of the Heavenly United States. Saul was standing on what was left of the old United States; the Old Country as some called it. He was one of the few humans who still lived there, as most had migrated to the Ascended Nations decades ago. The population now mainly consisted of phantoms, demons, centaurs, giants, imps, fairies, elves, yokai and the occasional demigod. They roamed the landscape, claiming the deserted nation as their own. Just another aftereffect of the Awakening.
"Greetings, Persian One. Are you scouting the landscape for game this morning?" a familiar obnoxious voice asked.
Saul glanced at the one-eyed elf named Tyonis, then kept walking.
"Persian One! Did you not hear my inquiry?"
"Yeah, I heard you, Tyonis. I'm not hunting for game, I'm going to get the mail."
"Ah. This 'mail' is how you humans delivered information before the Awakening, is it not?"
"Yep. Somehow, the government managed to keep the mail service alive down here. It takes months for mail you should have gotten in two days to get to your address, but hey, beggars can't be choosers."
Beggars especially couldn't be choosers when they lived in a mountain range where mythics were their neighbors. It took Saul about an hour to get to his family's mailbox if he wasn't rushing, and since he never knew when mail was going to come, he would have to walk to the foot of Mount Augustine every morning. He didn't mind the walk. What he did mind was the unwanted company that he would always run into. Sometimes it was Tyonis. At other times it was wandering phantoms. Occasionally it was talkative fairies. If Saul was unfortunate it would be an entire mob of mythics.
Luck was not on his side that morning.
"Saul! Saul! What are you heading down the mountain for?" a hyper fairy asked while she orbited over his head.
"He's going to retrieve this thing called... 'mail.' I believe its a meat of some sort," a soft-spoken centaur clarified.
"Not meat. Mail has words on it. Human words. Human read what other human write on mail," a grumpy troll corrected.
"It could be a chain letter y'know... A curse meant to afflict the letter's reader," a vengeful ghost added. "Saul... do you have any enemies who are out to destroy you?"
"Silence yourself, phantom! The Persian One is an honorable sort who would never breed malice in others," Tyonis protested. "And he would-"
"Will you all please shut up?!" Saul shouted back at them.
They all froze and looked at the teenager in shock. Saul played with a lonely black bang that dangled off his forehead. Then he proceeded to the mailbox which was only ten more feet away. To his surprise, something was actually inside it today: an envelope. He was about to open it when he heard a tree falling.
"What was that?" he asked while looking in the direction of the sound.
"Persian One! That must be Grimmold!" Tyonis exclaimed. "He's been trying to conquer this area for the past month!"
Saul looked at the elf. "Why haven't I noticed him until now? I come to this mailbox everyday."
"Grimmold's been purposely avoiding you. I suppose something must have provoked him this morning."
Saul made his face. The only thing different about this morning was that the mail got delivered. Saul gave the envelope to the fairy.
"Can you take this back to my house?" he asked.
She twirled enthusiastically. Saul took that as a 'yes.'
"Tyonis, come with me."
"What? Where are we going, Persian One?"
"We're going to teach Grimmold how to be a morning person. Now come on!"
Saul rushed toward where Grimmold was with Tyonis close behind. It wouldn't be the first time Saul had to put Grimmold in his place. Grimmold was an ogre with a nasty temper and terrible strength. One swing of his club, fashioned out of a tree trunk, could clear an entire forest range. The brute of an ogre thought himself king of Mount Augustine and terrorized all the other mythics living there. Then one day, a family of humans moved to mountain range. Grimmold planned to kill them and put their bodies on display as a lesson to the mythics on the mountain, but before he could pursue them, the father of the family arrived at his doorstep and challenged Grimmold to a duel. Grimmold laughed and invited his subjects to watch him crush this impudent human. To his and everyone else's surprise, Grimmold's opponent wasn't the father, but his only son who was only nine years old at the time.
Insulted by the humans' impudence, Grimmold was prepared to torture the little boy. He would break his tiny legs, then pull his arms from his sockets, and finally squish him under the weight of his thumb. The fight began and the child disappeared. A moment later, Grimmold was on his knees, holding his stomach and wheezing for air. He helplessly watched the little human walk back home with his father, then watched his subjects disappear as well. Not before getting in a hit themselves and tossing slurs at him, of course.
Grimmold had never forgotten that day six years ago. When Saul appeared before him again with Tyonis, Grimmold's blood began to boil.
"We finally meet again, Puny One. I see you've gotten taller," Grimmold said. "Grimmold always wonder why humans grow so fast."
Saul ignored Grimmold and looked at the man cowering behind him. He wore a white outfit that bore the Heavens Crest on it. He was definitely the one who delivered the mail this morning. Grimmold must have seen him riding through Mount Augustine and thought he was invading his territory.
Saul whispered to Tyonis. "I'll handle Grimmold. I want you to rescue that mailman and take him back to my house. My sister will bandage him up."
Tyonis grunted in accordance. He stepped back into the cover of trees and foliage while Saul approached Grimmold.
"Listen, Grimmold. I don't care about your little conquering fetish, but if you start harming visitors to this mountain, things are going to get ugly between you and me."
Grimmold laughed like a madman. He slammed his club into the earth, invoking a small tremor that scattered the local wildlife and shook nearby trees.
"The Puny One finally crosses Grimmold's path and he gives Grimmold demands? Feh! Impudence strong in humans. ...Is fine, Grimmold thinks. He just crush it out of Puny One along with Puny One's insides! Grimmold gets revenge for humiliation six years ago!"
Saul cocked a brow. "Humiliation? What humiliation?"
Grimmold made a face. "You remember, Puny One... Six years past, you come to mountain. You even punier than now. You defeat Grimmold in front of subjects. He become laughing stock of mountain. You remember?"
"Ah. Yeah, I remember Dad making me fight someone when we first moved here. Something about establishing dominance so the rest of the mythics wouldn't bug us. …Wait, that was you?"
Grimmold went blind with rage. He swung his club and downed the tree the mailman was sitting under. Fortunately, Tyonis pulled the mailman away and dragged him off. Grimmold paid them no mind. He charged at Saul like a bloodhound.
Grimmold brought his monster of a club down over Saul's head, but the youth sidestepped it effortlessly. A small crater was in place of where he stood. Grimmold scooped his club up toward Saul, uprooting the earth like an excavator. Saul jumped up with the club's swing and somersaulted into a tree like an acrobat. The tyrant ogre chopped it down with a single blow. When he saw Saul hop to another tree, he did a full 360 degree spin, smashing the surrounding trees like a twister. He stopped, looked at the devastation and grinned.
"I know you're not the deepest guy around, but you should still respect nature," Saul said.
Grimmold glanced over his shoulder. Saul was standing on the head of his club with his bandaged hands in his pockets. Grimmold swung his club to throw him off, but Saul landed gracefully in front of him. He put a hand to his face and yawned. Veins were bulging on the ogre's neck.
"I will kill you! Grimmold crush Puny One until all that remains is dust!" he cried.
"Yeah yeah... Just come at me, already."
Grimmold stampeded toward Saul like a war elephant. Saul spread his legs and took a stance. His bandaged hands clenched into knuckles. Before Grimmold could slug his club, Saul vanished. He reappeared in Grimmold's space, aiming at the ogre's stomach like it had a red target painted on it.
"Exalted Fist!" he exclaimed while burying his fist into Grimmold's gut.
The pressure of the blow was so powerful, the air behind Grimmold's back burst upon impact. The fallen king dropped his club and fell to his knees. He held his stomach while wheezing for air. It was a repeat of the event six years ago; right down to Saul walking away without looking back.
"Grimmold lose to Puny One twice... Grimmold never be king..." he mumbled while passing out.
Saul checked the bandages on his fist. "Well, that was waste of time. Breakfast is gonna be cold by the time I get back home."
Suddenly, Saul heard clapping. He looked around until he spotted the mailman clapping with his back to a tree.
"Color me impressed. You really are one of a kind, aren't you Mr. Sassani?"
Saul blinked. "Where's Tyonis?"
"Tyonis... How did I come up with a name like that, again? It sounds so silly when I think about it now."
"Where. Is. Tyonis?"
The mailman smirked and snapped his fingers. Tyonis appeared out of the woodwork. Saul made a face.
"Are you two working together?" he asked.
"Not exactly. Tyonis, take off your eyepatch."
Tyonis did so. There was no eye or eye socket under the patch, just skin with the Greek Xi symbol branded on it.
Saul's eyes widened. "You're a magician."
"One point for Gryffindor! You see, this guy isn't really an elf. He's my fourteenth doppelganger among the twenty-four I currently have wondering the globe. I've instructed him to watch over you."
The mailman smiled. He glanced at Tyonis. "I have no need for you anymore. Disappear." Tyonis burst into ashes and was scattered by the wind. "Right, where we? Oh yeah. The reason I've been spying on you. The answer is actually in that envelope you asked your fairy friend to take home. It contains a letter of recommendation for Seraph Academy."
"Seraph Academy? Is that a place I'm supposed to know?"
"Everybody in the Ascended Nations knows about it. It's one of the greatest schools for young magicians around the world. Only the best of the best get to attend."
"You should probably take back your letter then. I'm no magician. My sisters on the other hand-"
"I'm not interested in your sisters, Mr. Sassani. You're the one whom I've been scouting for. That martial art you just used to kick Grimmold's ass with. What's it called again?"
"Satsujinshen! The Art of God Slaying, as some call it. It's a Chinese-Japanese martial art developed after the Awakening to help humans who can't perform magic defend themselves against mythics. But you can perform magic, so why would you need to know such a martial art?
"I can use magic, but to a very limited extent, which you probably know already. My magical power is almost nonexistent. Satsujinshen is the only way for me to survive in the Old Country."
"Oh, you've survived and then some. You're pretty much top dog around here, so maybe its time for you to find a new playground."
"Like Seraph Academy?"
Saul snorted. "Whatever. I'm not interested. I'm sorry to say that you came all this way for noth-"
"You could help your sisters."
Saul froze. He looked back at the mailman. "...What the hell are you talking about?"
"I know about your sisters' conditions. Both of them are cursed. Your older sister Mari is turning into a ghoul, meanwhile your litter sister Jasmine is afflicted by night terrors of a demon that wants her soul. They won't make it another few years, probably."
Saul fist barely missed the mailman's face. It landed square into the tree behind him, and caused it to tumble.
"You can shut up now," Saul threatened.
The mailman didn't lose his composure. In fact, he smirked. "I'm not threatening you, Mr. Sassani. I'm just telling you what will happen if you don't take this opportunity. There are all types of magicians at Seraph Academy. Some of which specialize in the exorcising of curses."
Saul's eyes narrowed.
"You want to save your family, right? Well going to Seraph is the best way to do it. You're bound to find a exorcist or two up there."
Saul paused. He withdrew his fist and gave the mailman some space.
"You're being square with me, right?" he asked.
"Why would I lie?"
"That's not an answer. Also, you haven't told me what it is you want out of this. Or who you are."
The mailman scratched his chin. "Oh yeah. I have been a little secretive, haven't I? Well, let me start by giving my name first. I'm Sylvester Knives, an instructor at Haven Academy, and I've been looking for a godslayer like you for a while."
He smirked. "Let me tell you about this new project I'm having fun with. I call it Project: Killing Heaven."