72 Days Until Brilliance And the Uncertain End (part 1)
Unlike the first attempt, this time, the training stadium was filled with spectators. Kony’s previous battle had spread like wild fire through the rumors mill of the campus. Zeydar had told Kony to act as if nothing had happened, while on Campus, but had pulled Kony from the dorms each afternoon to take Kony to the Igilistal home to train. Kony’s stamina and control had skyrocketed in the time. He used too much magic for attacks resulting in minor backlash and a general waste, but in time that too would be changed. Kony was better off eight days later, than he was for his first fight and Zeydar was ready too.
Zeydar had noticed a general change in his classes. There was not much, but of the students who attended his classes, they were more focused on watching him. It seemed, to him at least, that they were paying attention more. Zeydar had been asked a theory question in one of his classes the day before, and had been left stunned. He answered the question, related it back to the subject at hand, and went on. It was, however, one of the questions from his previous tests and not taught in the general academy. Some students were looking at Zeydar as more than a face, more than a famous name, and looking at what made him the top student when he had been a student. It was as if they were beginning to take him seriously for the first time.
Zeydar liked that and just as students were taking Zeydar serious, the Superiors were taking Kony serious. There were three challengers this time. All of the Class One Mages that were Kony’s age stood before Zeydar and Kony on the opposite side of the ring. Their Superiors were with them discussing, unsure if they would be able to convince Zeydar of the legitimacy of the fight. A three on one was in no ways fair, and Zeydar planned to take the challenge. He was petty. He held a grudge. Zeydar wanted to break them.
“I can’t fight all three.” Kony whispered. He was not nearly as confident as Zeydar was. Zeydar knew Kony could do it. The boy had been capable of fighting Aralax in the middle of the night with no light but the stars. He had limited magic then. Kony could win this. The thing was, that he would not be able to fight like a Star. Zeydar never expected Kony to fight like a Star, to be prim as he beat someone bloody. No, Zeydar was creating a war mage. Kony was not a Star, and even if he knew the rules, rules meant little in the real world.
“They will want you to. One after another. To get you to lose once. That is all they need.” Zeydar placed his hand on Kony’s back for comfort. If the Superiors did not ask for a one on three, Zeydar was going to. It would seem audacious, but it would be the best situation for Kony. Kony needed to act quick and powerful. It would be a better show and do better for his stamina.
Kony’s stamina with magic could not be faked. It could not be changed in a few short months of learning magic for the first time. Kony might know theory, history, structure, spells, but his stamina could not keep up with his brain especially not when he used two types of magic. Thus they had to avoid stamina at all costs and go all out at once. Kony was brilliant, and he could prove it with time. Unfortunately they did not have time. Kony had built up magic stamina through the times he’d helped Zeydar, and the times that Zeydar had drained him. He had built it up in their practices, and the things Zeydar had him do, but even that was, at most, impossible to show.
If Zeydar had not forced Kony to try both forms, Kony would have been able to keep up with them from skill and power. Learning both forms, made his control shaky and had him wasting copious amounts of magic. These Class Ones could fight for hours at full strength if they wanted. Kony had a good solid thirty minutes at most and that was without using both types of his magic.
“Why?” Kony dropped down to begin to stretch.
“They’ll use it as a way to slander me.” Zeydar could hear it already. If Kony fell, it would shine on Zeydar. People were watching them as it was. A Star that came from nowhere matched with the Superior who was an enigma of enigmas. One wrong move and their delicate peace would crumble. If they were going to be controlled by the Superiors then Zeydar was going to make them panic. “If you have both defense and offense should your record not be like mine? Undefeated.”
“I can’t do it.” Kony whispered.
“Not within proper protocols.”
“Recite them to me.” Zeydar ordered and Kony did so. He said the rules of engagement and proper duel etiquette. He had memorized it and perhaps was one of the few people on the field who actually knew it front to back. “You know the rules. That means you know how to twist them so they don’t break.”
Kony was silent at that before he laughed out. “They are fools.”
Zeydar was not sure Kony saw the path yet, but he would before the battle was called to begin. “They are angry that I am tying their hands to force the Military Mages to help the X’s.”
“What a shame.” Kony got up and stretched his arms standing shoulder to shoulder with Zeydar. He had grown recently, and his voice was deeper. Standing there at Zeydar’s side was the one person that Zeydar felt safest near, besides Evester. Kony was going to demolish them. “We actually care about the survival of all of humanity.”
“Careful now Kony, your sarcasm is showing.” Zeydar placed his hand on Kony’s shoulder. He tapped three times. “Agree to it on the condition you fight them all at once.” Zeydar’s hand then dropped to Kony’s back as he pushed him forward a bit. “Be cocky if you have to. Get them to agree no matter what.”
“You won’t say anything?” Kony asked.
“Oh what could I do to convince my poor foolish X born Star?” Zeydar lamented. “Etiquette is so far beyond you, that no matter what I do, it will take years to change you.” When Kony chuckled at the tone, Zeydar knew that he was far from convincing. No one would believe him. That was the point. They needed to be enraged.
“You want me to take the heat?” Kony was amused.
“I’ll deal with the Superiors.” Zeydar answered as they stepped up to the stage. The other Superiors glanced in their direction. “You know your etiquette and rules better than any of these farm raised mages.”
“And when they say yes?” Kony’s fear peaked through again. “It’s three mages. I’ve only fought you.”
“You say that like they’ll possibly be stronger than me.” Zeydar turned Kony to face him. When Kony did so, Zeydar saw Kony settle a bit. The fear was visible but not so much as before.
“You never fought to kill me.” Kony glared at them. They had never expressed it directly, but Zeydar knew Kony knew that the Stars would kill him if it meant erasing the stain that was a Class One being born to the X’s. Accidents happened, and he had to be careful.
“You fought Aralax.” Zeydar reminded him. “You fed me magic when Valaria crumbled to dust. Fighting in the real world is dirty. It is not fair. You know the rules. Use that.” Zeydar saw Kony give a hesitant nod, searching for the answer that Zeydar wanted him to use. Zeydar sighed dramatically. “How unfortunate that you still do not know etiquette of a magic fight.”
Kony laughed. “Only if they try to kill me.” Kony froze and then started mumbling to himself, before he looked up at Zeydar with wide eyes. He had found the answer. Zeydar cocked an eyebrow at him and Kony shook his head regaining his composure. He then winked at Zeydar. “I’ll finish it quickly.”
Zeydar hummed to himself and started walking Kony forward again. “They will try to draw it out.”
“I won’t give them the chance.” Kony sounded more sure of himself in the passing seconds.
“And when they go after your weaknesses?”
“Seal them. Push back. Destroy.”
“I think you’ll be ready.” Zeydar tapped his shoulder once more.
“May I lecture them on the history of magic as I go?”
“Please do. Maybe they’ll start showing up to my classes.” Zeydar could hear it now. Kony giving them a lecture would be the cherry on top of the entire fight. If Kony was going to win, he had to do it in style. Zeydar was going to get the flack, the heat, the eyes, and Kony was going to send Zeydar’s spite back at all of them.
The others approached and the moment the referee was close enough the show began. “What is the meaning of this!” Zeydar was the first to talk. “We said one on one, Jasper.” Zeydar looked to Superior Jasper and his student Kris.
“Your student has offended a few of the others.” Superior Jasper answered holding his hand out to Superior Tisha and Superior Roland. Both were roughly Zeydar’s age. He could not see their eyes beyond their hoods but he knew they were sneering.
Zeydar looked to Kony who shrugged. They both knew it was a lie, yet Kony knew his role. “I don’t remember who I piss off.” Kony’s cocky asshole voice almost made Zeydar jump. Zeydar looked back to the other Class One students who prickled and glared feeling proud. They acted as if this were the way that Kony always acted. Zeydar vaguely knew the boy had changed since coming to the school. With his family, the the Igilistals, Kony was just as sweet as he used to be, but the school had forced him to become harder, stronger, meaner. Zeydar had never heard it before, never saw it, until this moment. A defense mechanism for being an outsider that made Zeydar beam. Kony had built an image up for this moment and Zeydar would ensure it was not shattered. Kony had no need to be humble.
“We only agreed to one.” Zeydar stated more stern than before.
“I don’t care.” Kony went on disregarding Zeydar.
“Kony.” Zeydar snapped. He was impressed. Kony had fallen into the cadence so well that Zeydar had almost been offended.
“I’ll take them all at once if that’s what they want.” Kony smiled brightly. “After all I have lessons to attend and so do you, Superior Zeydar. We don’t have time for three separate fights.”
“Kony.” Zeydar turned and Kony, whispered. “Stop.” Turned back and bowed to the other Superiors. “Please forgive him. He doesn’t understand that—“
“He takes after you, doesn’t he?” Marjorie’s voice. Zeydar looked to his former Superior. She walked on to the stage. “Unfortunately the boy is right, we don’t have time for a long set of battles.”
“He’s not me.” Zeydar forced the words out, knowing that they had won.
“No? He acts like it.” Superior Jasper went on. “We will agree to the one versus three. If that is what it takes to teach the lesson of respect.”
“It will be hardly fair.” Kris disagreed. She did not seem on board for it which surprised Zeydar. Was she scared? Or was she feeling sorry for Kony?
“What are you scared I’d beat you all?” Kony pressed further.
“Kony!” Zeydar snapped. He glanced back and saw how it had gotten rise out of Kris. Any apprehension she had, was gone.
“What?” Kony asked. Zeydar saw that Kony wondered if he had gone too far.
“If your student agrees, then there is little that you can say. Is that not what you told me?” Marjorie used Zeydar’s words against her. They had always tried to make him falter, to fall, to destroy himself. He always did more, better, and was stronger than they knew. Zeydar had made them do what he wanted even when the Superiors said no, because of those very words. Because he had survived the Arcadia collapse and she wasn’t qualified to tell him what to do or not.
Marjorie was saying Zeydar was still not qualified to be a Superior, to be Kony’s lead. They wanted him to fail through Kony. They wanted Kony to fail. They wanted to tear Kony down, kill him, erase him. They wanted to curb Zeydar, control him and contain him. Too bad Kony and Zeydar had already known that.
“I’ll do it.” Gravse, the second of the Class One students, agreed with Kony. Kris and the other Class One student, Kenna, agreed with their own fast chirps of approval.
“Then it is set. Lets let the students have their time.” Marjorie directed them away, and Zeydar shot one more look at Kony who was looking at him with eyes that asked if he did well. Zeydar nodded and walked with the Superiors away. They all stood on the same side, so they could monitor Zeydar for interference.
The match was called to begin not thirty seconds later.