554 Can You Continue?
The pilum sped past Maximus... and cleanly pierced the dovahkiin's arena partner's abdomen. The human flew off of his feet, and the bloody end stuck deep into the sands.
Tycondrius grinned. That person was finished. ⌈Eviscerate⌋ was not a normal Skill.
The crowd roared. They jeered, they booed. Whatever it was, Tycon decided to take it as a compliment. He waved politely to his many admirers, whipping them into an even greater frenzy.
"Boss...?" Pale grimaced, "Wh... what happens now?"
Tycon scoffed, "Tss. Young man... I believe you already know the answer. This is *your* training, not mine."
"Boss..." Pale sniffed like he was about to cry, "You... you want me to fight Maximus by myself, don't you?"
"Very astute, Spear Hero," Tycon sneered. "Now, go. Show me the pride of Sol Invictus."
"FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUCKKK!!!!" Theo tried to hold it in, but he loosed a scream of agony.
He held on to the bloody pilum in his stomach... His mouth tasted of iron, sweat poured down his face like heavy rain. His body shook and spasmed as pain wracked his body.
It didn't make sense! There was so... so much pain. He'd been a gladiator for YEARS! He'd been burned, cut, and stabbed DOZENS of times before...
But those wounds... the pain was never so quick! It felt like... he'd been stuck, his insides twisted around a cold fork, left to rot and fester for bells! Nothing in his life had ever hurt so much!
He needed to unpin himself, to cut the ends off... to stand and KEEP FIGHTING! But all he could do was vomit blood and bile, sending aftershocks of pain up and down his spine.
He was a GLADIATOR! He was an entertainer and a Flame-taken good Fighter! AND he was a thrice-damned IRON-RANK! If he fell to a single strike, his reputation would be ruined!
It wasn't possible. Why did it hurt? WHY? Was the speartip poisoned? Was it enchanted?! Did the Tactician pay the inspectors to overlook his weaponry?!?
Maximus stood over him, glowering with unfeeling eyes.
"GGGgghhhhh!!" Theo groaned. He coughed at the taller man's feet, spitting a gob of blood, "Don't just stand there! I'm dying, you Flamescarred lizard!"
"Don't bother getting up," Maximus spat. His eyes glowed an electric blue as he turned to face the two members of Sol Invictus.
"I'm your... guhh... Flame-taken guild leader!!" Theo roared, wincing from the pain, "Listen to me!! MAXIMUS!!!"
It was no use. He couldn't move. He couldn't feel the tips of his feet, but he could feel that he'd pissed and soiled himself.
"You underestimated the Tactician," Maximus glowered over him, "That was the price."
He turned and began walking away, "Now... stay the f*ck down."
"You... you can't be serious," Theo called out after him. His entire body shook-- and with another painful heave, he added to the pool of fresh blood beside him, "Y... you can't fight both of them alone."
Maximus stopped... and half-turned his head. He wasn't angry. He wasn't disappointed. Those glowing eyes held nothing but disdain.
"I expected to fight alone, ever since our opponents were decided."
Theo's eyes widened in realization.
Maximus... he knew.
The Caeruleum Coliseum was the gladiatorial holyland.
It was full of monsters: giants that could tear men's arms from their torsos, iron-skinned maniacs that could take twenty bolts to the chest and laugh, sadistic murderers that took glee in carving a thousand cuts onto their victims as the crowds cheered them on.
It was not a place for the men and women of Noctis Umbra.
They were a shite guild.
They were fakes.
Maximus carried their guild into glory on his armored back.
Theo shut his eyes... blinking away his tears and praying to the Flame that he would either survive... or die faster.
The pounding of sandals on sand quickly approached him... a team of arena medics.
"Can you continue, gladiator?" Their leader asked.
Theo forced his eyes open... He stared at Maximus, who stood ten paces away from two men from Ezyria's actual strongest guild.
And his heart swelled with shame.
Tycon smirked, observing Maximus from the short distance away.
The man was younger... angrier and more vigorous than he remembered. When he met him in the Kingdom, Maximus had a melancholy and fatigued look about him. His current face better behooved his reputation.
⟬ Maximus, Gold-Rank Dovahkiin Stormwalker ⟭
He was obscenely strong... and had a high-tier class. However, the Warmage was far different from the other Gold-Ranks he'd met... Samurai Garock and Hallowed Summoner Natalya, in particular.
His actual level was similar to... Pale's.
Just like the boy, Maximus was half-step Gold-Rank... not yet developed. It was good enough to dominate the Ezyrian arena scene... but nearly every combat member of Sol Invictus was more-or-less his equal.
Tycon's previous self would be trounced, of course... but he was not that person.
After the dovahkiin's defeat, he would go off and work for the Church... becoming one of their Avengers. There, he would solidify his Metal-Rank. He would become the proper hero his people celebrated. He would throw his honor away... and soon after, he would join Sol Invictus only to die far from his home, without a burial.
As he was now, he was just training fodder.
"I am Maximus of Umbra Noctis!" The dovahkiin roared, clanging his spear against his shield.
"Good afternoon," Tycon waved.
Maximus' face crumpled into disappointment... then his eyes sparked blue with anger, "Name yourselves!! You who would fight me in honorable battle!!!"
"Ah, right," Tycon reached behind him and grabbed Pale's wrist. He pulled the boy to in-front of him. "Go ahead, young man."
"G-good afternoon," Pale saluted obediently... "My name is Pale... of Sol Invictus."
Maximus pointed the tip of his spear at Tycon, "And you? Draw your weapon and tell me *your* name."
Tycon shrugged, "I'm not going to bother, Maximus of *Umbra Noctis.*"
The dovahkiin's entire body, from his blue-scaled arms to his muscular legs, shook in what Tycon judged to be barely-contained fury.
Though he wasn't initially planning on agitating the fellow, his reaction was... amusing.
How far he could push Maximus off the edge? --For training purposes, of course.