After the week I've been having it was nice to finally have some time for myself. One of the things I like to do when relaxing was to listen to one of the greatest artists in all of Terra: Verf (paint in Dutch). When I was little, I would always watch his videos on my archive whenever I had a bad day. He always had a smile on his face and seemed to make a day a little bit brighter, and I knew I was going to need him for what's coming next. Hi, my name is Aphele, and I'm currently on a quest to become an elementist and do my part in ending the Forbidden War as a specialist. Anyway, so there I was on my dorm room early in the morning watching him paint Mount Rahi (grand in Maori): Terra's biggest mountain. I find it a bit embarrassing, but I can draw well. At school, I always paid attention to what my art teacher said and copied from there. I'd say my sketches are relatively good as far as I can tell and of course, Verf was an outstanding teacher.
"Now remember when your painting objects always to have a sense if your environment. Get a feel for what the scale of your project is going to be. Remember foundations is everything."
Before I could hear more of Verf's teachings, I suddenly started to get chilly. I then realized that "he" was coming. Crap! I quickly went across my room cleaning anything that I could as I heard footsteps approaching. My knuckles went white as I dusted off my bed when he came through the door. Right then there Zero the Zero was gazing upon my dorm room with me inside it! The sheer shock and awe of this grand spectacle boggled my mind to the point of pure speechlessness! Still, I mustered the courage with every fiber, every cell of my being I spoke out!
"Like would you sit, Zero, Lord?"
The sheer embarrassment of this event made me lose control of myself as my headlights on fire. This was a common occurrence when I'm nervous. Naturally, I have a resistance to fire, so I was fine. Zero looked puzzled and simply stated.
"I'll stand to thank you."
He motioned into my room, where he tightened his expression.
"What you did yesterday was certainly one of the most unorthodox things I've seen in a while. When you get to be in this profession for as long as me, you see a lot. So I need to ask you a question. How did you survive the Metal clan massacre?"
The weight of the question was palpable. It was a question that left scars on the people of Terra. You see 17 years ago a mysterious attack happened that wiped out the Metallo: the city that held the most metal element users. Ever since there have been no known reports of people, who carry the metal element since. I'm the last of my race as far as I know.
"My mother, Crimson saved me from the massacre when I was a baby. My father contained the metal element and ... didn't make it. I didn't know I had his element until yesterday, sir. I'm telling the truth I swear."
"I'm sorry to hear that I remember visiting Metallo. I made good friends there. Since you are by far the youngest elementist by far that we've seen since the massacre. the elemetntals are trying to make me incline you to surrender your license."
"You are the last of your race Aphele. Right now we are at war with many powerful opponents and so there is a chance you die. If that happens, there is a high possibility that the Metal Clan dies with you. They want to keep you safe and... continue the bloodline."
I was completely dumbfounded. How could they do all this without my consent? At first, I was a little angry, but I do see my point. I don't carry my father's legacy anymore. I carry every member of my heritage on my back. The sheer weight of this was too much to bear, but I remember why I wanted to be a specialist in the first place.
"No. I'm not sitting on sidelines while other people others risk their lives against history's greatest evils. I'm sorry Zero sir, but I'm not backing down on my dream."
I looked at Zero with deadly seriousness. Zero glared at me with his chilling eyes, but shockingly he relented.
"I'm glad to hear that. From what I've seen you seem to have a good head on your shoulders Aphele. You were top of your game in the exams. As much as I wish the Metal Clan Massacre never happened, I think Terra is in a great need of more heroes. Metal is a powerful element. Congratulations and I hope you treat it well. I'll try to convince the elementals of your statement but it would probably best if you pass your final trial with your new teammates. You should be getting that notification at any moment."
In response, my archive binged as zero walked towards me with my license in hand.
"Tell me Aphele are you ready and willing to travel to distant lands, fight evil and put your life on the line?"
He bestowed the license on to me smiled and left the room. I then decided to look at my archive to see my new teammates. As soon as I saw who they were one word formed. Crap. Their names were Brandon, Mai, Deon, and Lunaire. Don't get me wrong they were relatively fine, but as a group, I don't know if we were going to work together very well. Deon is prideful, Lunaire is antisocial and Brandon I've found to be rambunctious and Mai... Mai is pretty okay I don't know what it is, but she is easy to get along with. Plus what's worse is that my situation is way different than that of an average elementist.
Usually, an elementist spends a month here have two months of training and then usually gets their license in a ceremony where they have to say the oath and leave to probably join a team. However, that time is cut down to 8 to 9 days for summarized lessons and forced teams, exams, and people handing over their license. Out of the 1,200 people who came only 500 were left. All for sending 500 men and women to fight in a war from 3 different schools. Combine that with the latest news, and it was maddening. When I wanted to become an elementist, but I didn't want it like this. It wasn't some special ceremony it felt like some kind oppressive title. A death sentence wrapped up in a tight little bow. Doomed to die and be forgotten: just like my father.
I quickly push this out of my mind as I run towards where I was supposed to be on my team. I did hold out some hope it was all going to work out. I mean how bad could those four be? My point is made in a cornucopia of madness. Lunaire and Deon were both being separated by hands made of water while Brandon tried to calm down. The noise got louder and louder until my entire body blazes up in a fiery aura and I yell.
"What in Terra's name are you doing!"
The all stopped in their tracks. Deon then started to speak.
"Well, if it's isn't the metal monster of St.Leon."
"Okay, one no one calls me that, two how did this happen?"
"Brandon accidentally touched Deon. Deon felt insulted and shocked him off then Lunaire stepped in and the rest, as they say, is history."
I rubbed my forehead in annoyance and decided to voice my opinion.
"Look, we can't be at each other's throats every chance we meet up. Will never get anything done."
"You think I can work together with these guys," said Lunaire.
Were we able to work well against the golem remember? I think right now we should focus on the enemy ahead and get to know each other."
Suddenly over the intercom, we heard an announcement with Zero's voice.
"Attention all teams you are to report to the stadium for assembly."
We all exited our room and filled the stands. St.Leon's stadium is similar to a coliseum 500 students packed into one specific part of the stadium where we gazed down below Normally it was a large grassy field but now in the center was a small ring. Suddenly A hurricane of ice and snow appeared above us. In a flash Zero was there with a hand tied behind his back, a headset and something special in his right side. It was a gleaming sword of ice known far and wide as Zero's legendary cold steel. Zero's voice reverberated across the stadium as he stated our new trial.
"In war, you often don't choose who you work with. The only way we win this war is through unity and focus. So what better way to focus on those principals then have a common enemy? You have two chances to come up with a strategy to lay one blow on me. To make it fair for all of you I will have a left hand tied behind my back and only be using a tenth of my power. If you don't beat me in those two chances, your team will be evaluated or changed. Don't worry I still will be holding back. Now, who will face me in battle?"
The entire crowd was paralyzed in fear, but still, one by one the teams stood up to the plate. I was about to discuss a plan of attack for my teammates. Too bad that we spent that time formulating completely different strategies that were mid formed. We argued until we finally were up to the plate where it was absolute chaos. Well, Mai and Brandon were asking me metal related questions.
"So can you make a statue? A duck? How did you get the metal element?"
"Can you make a broadsword, a rifle, a hammer?"
"No, No, my dad, No. NO. NO. Now can we please focus on the trial?"
It was too late as Zero had already signaled to begin the trial.
Deon with his bravado, ran across the stadium and smiled with unbridled pride.
"I hope you're watching Zero because I'm about to show you something that you will never forget!"
He clapped his hands suddenly four more Deon's appeared with golden light! I was completely awestruck. Deon had used one of Terra's most potent techniques: The light decoy. By manipulating light one can use it to create copies of yourself and other attacks. I knew he was skilled but not like this. Deon or the Deon's quickly surrounded with each summoning electricity in their right hand. Thankfully Lunaire explained his tactics.
"He's using the decoys to surround him and the joy buzzer to paralyze him."
"So he's using numbers to overwhelm and cover his weaknesses. You got to admit it's pretty smart right, Lunaire?"
She was then completely gone. I wasn't entirely surprised, as the element of darkness is known for espionage. I quickly looked back to the battle between Deon and Zero. It was one-sided. Zero threw his blade to one of decoys heads. In that space of time, he quickly made his way to another decoy 2. He slammed two before he could even flinch and threw him into 3. Brandon stepped in to take advantage of the chaos.
"Anaconda sweep, bear palm, rhino axe kick."
I soon remembered what he told me in the beginning. Brandon's "wildstyle" is a martial art that focuses on the power of various animals. Brandon was a blur of pure vigor, but none of them hit. The remaining decoys cashed in on the distraction by trying to blitz Zero but he quickly avoided it at the last minute. Brandon and Deon collided with one another in a disgusting sight. It was at that moment I decided to jump in. I fired a volley of fireballs at the stadium to create a smokescreen and rush in from above. I fall like a giant fireball to hit him. Sadly my flames were put out with a blast of snow from Zero. He takes my arm and then uses it to judo throw me a few feet away from him. When I get up, I hear a loud sound as I'm suddenly blindsided. I felt a surge of mana a couple of feet away from me. Then Mai's voice cried out.
A massive ball of swirling wind forms and is aimed straight at Zero. However Zero summoned a shield of ice that soon breaks after the ball implodes like thunder — using his added speed Zero backhanded my face outside of the ring. My bones shake from the sheer impact. After I recover in the stands with a bleeding nose, I see Mai get blown away by a punch of intense wind. Zero jumped out of the cloud of smoke dodging tendrils of darkness. He fired a couple of blast of ice, but Lunaire quickly disappeared. She reappeared behind him and shot a couple of spikes made of darkness. Zero dodged and propelled himself with an icy wind to throw Lunaire out of the ring. She reacted too late and just fell through the floor only to appear moments later. That was it. We were all beaten without him breaking a sweat. And all I could think of when I saw him was the lengths of what I would have to do to one day even be in his league.
As he motioned forward his eyes, he glared with disapproval. I got paralyzed.
"I don't know what was worse, your skill or your complete disregard for one another. Do you want to know why you all failed? You all have phenomenal skill, but I used your weaknesses against you without even much effort. Imagine if you were tasked with saving a persons life or defeating an enemy do you think you would have time to bicker amongst yourselves. Do you know what the duty of a specialist is? To put others ahead of themselves and when you're on a team, you learn to cover those weaknesses from experience. And if you ever are going to rise above what you are now, I suggest you learn before this day is done or else your journey ends before it ever begins."
It was cold; it was harsh but dang he was right. We acted like kids; we didn't even try getting to know each other including me. My breathing turned ragged, my fingers clenched, my mouth was close to spitting fire. The pressure is just too much how can I perform when I have the weight of an entire race on my shoulders then. Then suddenly the ground beneath me pulsed. It pulsed again and again until suddenly my desires took form, massive of what Verf said this morning. Even the Elementals needed a foundation to start on they had each either to count on. Zero was right. Despite our differences, we all were talented, and we were about to bear the burden of a specialist. That doesn't mean we have to carry that alone.
I made it to the stands where the others stood in the position.
"It may have been harsh, but Zero was right. You guys are some the best elementist I've ever seen and truly talented. Like he said before we need focus and foundation. Maybe the first thing we need is a leader to set us straight. Any volunteers?"
They all suddenly looked to me; all of them remembered the plan I came up with during the exams. Their faces said it all.
"I'm not the best planner, but I can support others plays. Besides, you seem to be the most natural leader out of all of us. You work well in the heat of the moment. I don't think the rest of us can pull that off as well as you do," Mai said.
She said it with full emotional clarity like she peered into all of us and noted our quirks, faults, and all. So then it was settled. I was now the leader of our merry band. Another responsibility on my shoulders but one I was going to try my damn hardest not to screw up. Quickly we got to work. I got to know a little bit more about my new teammates and our weaknesses. I took the knowledge in and like a picture in motion I saw exactly what we could do.
Still, we worked over the plan again until hours passed. By the time we finished sunset had turned the stadium of St.Leon into a desperate showdown. We were the last team still standing with only a couple of minutes left. We all stepped up into the ring; Zero stood there with an icy stare that slow everything down to a dramatic crawl. Still, we ventured forward we soon separated until we surrounded him then we began our assault. Deon split into 5 of himself and released a volley of small beams of light. They didn't do much damage but if they land it's all over. Zero quickly made a barrier of ice around him but removed his visibility. That was when Mai and Brandon struck with a single mighty blow that crumbles the barrier. In response, Zero cried out another one of his signature techniques.
A small sheet of snow covers the battlefield only for it to be blown away with a huge gust of wind. Zero nonetheless evaded but soon had his exit cut off by a spire of obsidian. The spikes continue appearing with Lunaire at a safe distance leading him straight towards me. As raised my fist I try desperately to call out to the power that I summoned during the exam. Thankfully my call answered as my mana commanded the minerals in the ground to form a crude gauntlet around my hand! I punched at Zero with all my might! Zero cleverly made a shield of ice, but the sheer force makes it cracks. He didn't even realize that our plan was still in motion. Brandon appeared in midair and struck the shield with an axe kick that shatters it to pieces. Before Zero could move away or counter Brandon ducked as a beam of solid light hit Zero's chest!
Zero looked at his chest in amazement and slowly he had a slight smile. He then applauded.
"Good work. That is what I expected from the next generation. But don't think for even a second that I'll be the hardest challenge you have. Always be wary. You're free to go."
After that we quickly got ourselves situated and pulled out our archives. It took us five minutes but we finally had a portfolio to be registered in the UTF (United Terrian Forces). All that was left was to simply add a name. We discussed it amongst ourselves until Mai entered "Rangers" along the tablet. Deon was first to object.
"Why do we have to have such an unfortunate name? Why can't it be something flashy like Deon and the miscreants, The Deon experience or perhaps-?
"Rangers it is, I guess."
We quickly loaded up with supplies and by the next morning, we ventured out ready to leave the city of Empezar. Ready to start our grand journey.