Immediately, Randidly could tell that Helen’s patience was brought to the brink by simply listening to the back and forth between these two individuals. Her eyes became even more vicious as the man trying to enter into the city spoke again.
“Please… you know I earned my spot as a representative in the under 25 tournament fair and square Garritt. Are you really going to let those fossilized Styles control you-”
“That’s enough,” Garritt growled, finally looking up at the person who was pleading with him. “Silo, you just don’t know when to give up, do you? You don’t care about consequences, and now you are just acting out because they have caught up with you. Without proof, she’s not coming in.”
“The proof is in your own memory!” Silo bellowed, but there seemed to be tears forming in his eyes. There was a strange feeling in the air that something tragic was happening. It felt sorta like those days where Randidly had seen his childhood pets die. An inevitable fall lay over these two people. “Please, for all we have shared Garritt-”
Everybody seemed to freeze and then turned to look at Helen. She clicked her tongue. “Let’s keep this short, yes? We have somewhere to be.”
After a few more seconds of silence, the mustachioed captain burst out laughing. “Hahaha, Silo Rune, you heard the lovely lady! Wrap this up. Or just scurry away with your tail between your legs like the dog you are.”
“Lad,” Two more people popped up out of nowhere, moving to stand next to Silo Rune. One was a middle-aged man, and another was an elderly woman. “We can take care of Rumi. It might be hard now, but-”
“Uncle… please, after you took care of me all this time, I can’t impose yet again-”
Helen clicked her tongue, even more loudly this time, and the conversation once more stuttered to a halt. The old woman gave her an embarrassed glance. These two new arrivals were wearing bulky cloaks, but it was easy to see the distinctive shape of a spear strapped to both of their backs.
“Err… well let’s just say I don’t think destiny is done between us,” The middle-aged man said. It was strange, but Randidly would have sworn his eyes sparkled as he grabbed Silo’s shoulder. “Before we part, I must confess that our meeting wasn’t a coincidence. My real name is-”
“Are you just going to let them waste time like that?” Helen asked, glaring now at the guards. “Or at least let us pass so they can continue their melodrama without wasting our time.”
For several seconds, everyone just blinked and looked at Helen. Taking this as assent, Helen stalked forward past the whispering individuals and walked to the guards. Helen presented their three invitations to the tournament. Although the guard’s eyes went wide and he opened his mouth to say something, Helen simply took the passed back and walked through.
“Thank you for your service,” Helen said sarcastically. Then they were gone, and into the city.
Silo Rune pressed his hands against the large golden doors of the Hall of Spears in the upper circle of Hastam. It was the holy land for the Spearman School, and even though he had suffered so much at the hands of the Styles that were deeply entrenched in Hastam, it was still as somewhat spiritual experience to actually be here.
His hands tightened into fists, and then he opened the door.
There were three tall individuals standing on the stage, and a large group of younger spear users milling around beneath that. Silo’s eyes scanned the crowd. 63 here in total, reaching 64 with him.
But most satisfying of all was seeing Althumber Veir’s face twist into a positively evil scowl now that he spotted Silo arriving.
Was he perhaps disappointed that his ambush on the road had failed? That kidnapping Silo’s sister wasn’t enough to keep him away? But Silo didn’t care. Justice was on his side, and although the Central Domain didn’t want to let him, Silo was determined to defeat the ultimate evil hanging over their heads.
“Perfect,” The central figure said, clapping his hands together. “We are all here, let us begin.”
At the man’s words, Silo exchanged a nod with the woman on the central figure’s right, while ignoring the way the figure on the left seemed to ooze hatred upon Silo’s arrival.
Like father like son, it seemed. Both were clearly rotten to the core.
“All 64 of the contestants have arrived. First, I must say welcome. Each of you has accomplished incredibly impressive feats, and being able to stand on this stage is the reward you have received. You will fight the best of the best from around the world. Find glory, friends. For only in struggle can our true strength be revealed.”
The central figure was an extremely large man with a bald head. And now, his face seemed to crumple. “...however, it regrets me to say that the realities of life make it so we cannot continue to administer the tournament in the usual way; the Wights have changed everything.
“But we will rise to the challenge. To that end, we have decided to shift the first half of the tournament from a purely individual competition to a team one. Each team will be given one of our Soulstones, refined by the Engraving Guild. These will act as a measure of your accomplishments. When Wights die, they release a certain kind of energy. This Soulstone will gather that energy.
“The task is simple; you and your team will be assigned to a Sergeant in the Spearman School military. With their assistance, you will perform military sorties into the Southern Domain, which has been completely overrun with the Wights. With your help, we hope to annihilate this foothold they have gained in the area and push the Wights out. This portion of the tournament will last for a full month. At the end of that time, the top 5 teams will proceed to the final portion of the tournament. For now, the details for that will remain confidential. Does anyone have any questions?”
A young man that Silo didn’t recognize raised his hand. But based on the warm golden color of the Tassle hanging above him, he was from the Heart School. “Do we get to choose the teams?”
The three people on stage exchanged a brief glance.
“...no, the teams have already been randomly selected,” Althumber’s father answered. “Effort was made to mix up the different Schools so that each team was balanced. There are known strengths to each School. Do your best to take advantage of these strengths.”
“Part of the point,” the woman amongst the trio said, “Is that you learn to work with those from different Schools. There is only one true enemy: the Wights. Only by working together do we have a chance. Although we have taken losses, the counterattack is about to begin.”
‘That’s wrong,’ Silo thought to himself as he looked at the woman. ‘There is a bigger enemy out there, and that is the Calamity. Until it is defeated, we will continue to struggle like this. And to defeat that thing is my destiny.’
“Any other questions? Ah yes, you, miss.”
Silo blinked as he recognized this woman: it was the rather prickly woman that had walked past him earlier when he was struggling with a petty trap by Althumber to keep him out of the tournament. Normally Silo wouldn’t have minded, but the point of contention was that his sister would be exposed to danger because of him. And at the time, he believed he had almost reached Garritt when the woman interfered.
Silo would not soon forget her cold and callous heart.
“We get points for killing Wights, basically, yes? Is there any adjustment for the tactical value of the targets we kill? For example, is it worth the same amount to retake a small fort and kill 20 Wights as to struggle and fail against a large army, but to also kill 20 Wights.”
“Excellent question,” the central figure said with a smile. “Your Sergeant will be able to recommend your team for additional points, should they believe it is necessary. All of those requests will be reviewed by us, so don’t think to try and slip something right. Nothing else?”
He looked around, and when no one responded, he smiled. “I feel the tension in the air… you all are ready to go to war, yes? Then let us begin. Each team will consist of four individuals. Team One is Althumber Veir, Ritrike Gauss, Harriet Lawl, and Sink Thrash. Team Two…
“Team Eleven is Helen…
“Finally, Team Sixteen is Silo Rune, Skarch Top, Azriel Blanche, and Randidly Ghosthound. You will depart tomorrow, so spend tonight familiarizing yourself with your teammates. You will not be able to survive without them.”
Quickly, Silo checked the backgrounds of his teammates and then grimaced. Truly, he was given the lowest of the low. Two were from the primitive lands of the Northern Domain in the Spearman Style, and their one foreign spear user, Skarch Top, was from a minor Style that didn’t even have a named spear.
Shaking his head, Silo wondered where he would find time to train these three up to his Level. Because his view of the war was so much broader than anyone else’s. Would it be possible, while carrying all this dead weight?