555 Lord Vanzano
Maximus raised his arms high, jutting out his chest, "You... *dare* disrespect me, Tactician?"
"Not quite," Tycondrius held his chin in thought. "You're a decent enough fellow. It's just that your guild is useless-- I'm sure you know this."
The tall dovahkiin paused, slowly raising an eyebrow... "We gladiators fight under our guild's name."
Tycon nodded in understanding. Solo gladiators did not achieve the same level of fame as organized teams. The practice likely had something to do with the way various organizations invested in them. Gladiatorial guilds were living, breathing, advertisements.
However, to anyone with basic gladiator knowledge... there was no Noctis Umbra. There was only Maximus.
"Tss... Technically correct," Tycon scoffed, pacing around him dramatically. "But that is not where your loyalties lie. Isn't that right... Lord Vanzano?"
Maximus narrowed his eyes to hateful slits, "What. in. the seven hells. are you trying to say?"
Hmmm. So the Vanzano was trying to play the part of the fool? A noble could not avoid association with their House... regardless of how shite his parents were.
Tycon decided to press the issue-- to see where it went.
"Ohh?" Tycon crossed his arms, "Are you ashamed, then? Of championing your younger sister?"
The crowd had gone deathly quiet. Insulting one's close-family was typical gladiator fare--and often considered low. However, it always elicited a response. The dovahkiin could not resist the pressure of fifty thousand sets of eyes.
Maximus was stunned into silence, gnashing his teeth, circulating his mana, and trying his best to look very intimidating.
It seemed to work on Pale. Tycon couldn't see the expression of the boy at his side... but the hands grasping his spear were turning white.
"I'm warning you..." Maximus muttered... "You'd best watch your Flamescarred mouth."
"Maximus of House Vanzano~" Tycon shook his head... then adopted a slow, mocking grin... "You're a worthless f*cking human being... for making Athena cry."
A feeling of vindictive satisfaction washed over him.
Those were words he'd always wanted to say-- even if they were to a man long dead.
Theo couldn't believe his Flame-taken ears. Tactician Tychon had crossed Maximus' bottom line.
There were two rules in Noctis Umbra... and both rules were 'Don't talk about Maximus' sister.'
The attack was instantaneous. Theo couldn't follow it.
He was only human.
A blue bolt of divine lightning had surged out of Maximus' outstretched hand.
And... the impossible happened.
The boy... the Flamescarred boy had leapt in front of the Tactician. With a swing of his spear... he deflected the attack.
Deflected. The bolt of Flame-f*cking lightning.
The arc shot skyward, spiraling and crackling out of control... until it hit the magical shield at the opposite end of the arena. The glass-like barrier flashed white, then the glow slowly dulled. A white, smoldering mark remained hanging in the air, attesting to Maximus' power.
The crowd gasped... and grew silent... then all at once, roared, drowning out Theo's pained thoughts.
"SILEEEENNNCE!" Maximus roared, "Shut your Flame-taken mouth and DRAW YOUR WEAPON!!!!"
"Ah, my sword~ You mean this?" Tychon grabbed the Tyrion blade off of his belt... sheath and all. Then... he tossed it unceremoniously onto the sands.
The crowd began to shout and scream at the audacity.
Tychon faced the raging crowd with his arms outstretched, "I submit! This will be a one-on-one fight! Maximus of HOUSE VANZANO against PALE, the youngest member of SOL INVICTUS!!"
Theo's eyes were bulging out of his head. The Tactician had surrendered his Flame-taken WEAPON?! He left the BOY to fight the greatest gladiator of all time?!?
The visored man then turned to sneer at the dragonblood, "And when you lose here, I will be Athena's champion-- not you."
One of the medics kneeled down beside Theo, "We need to evacuate you back into the pits, gladiator."
Theo bared his teeth in an embarrassed grin, "I uh... how about we watch from here?"
Tycon took a step back, feeling rather smug. One of his commandments to Pale was to intercept any projectiles meant for him. He was glad the boy remembered.
It was not the first time he was struck by lightning magic, and the last instance of it was rather unpleasant.
...Also, it was the boy's fault.
Glancing to his young companion, Tycon's assured smirk fell to a disappointed grimace.
"...Boss?" Pale responded with a high-pitched voice. Tears were streaming down his face-- too small for the crowd to see, but pathetic all the same.
"Why are you crying?"
"Boss, I think I'm gonna die," He frowned. "Mister Maximus is emitting so much mana..."
"Nonsense, this is training." Tycon explained matter-of-factly, "During training you're immortal. Did you forget?"
"Engage with the enemy," Tycon waved him off. "Go on."
"Nowwww!" Tycon groaned.
Pale nodded obediently, wiping at his eyes...
He lowered his stance... and sprinted towards the enraged dovahkiin.
The boy's speed was good, surprising Maximus and forcing the adult gladiator to block and deflect the tearful barrage of spear strikes.
Unfortunately for Pale, his opponent took him seriously. Maximus kept a solid shield defense, jabbing out with his own weapon to disrupt Pale's rhythm.
The balance changed when Maximus abruptly deflected one of Pale's heavier strikes away and forcing the boy off-balance.
The dovahkiin surged forward... and his offensive began.
Maximus' spear crackled with lightning energy, loud, dangerous, and oppressive. The boy expertly slipped, dodged, and parried.
"You're not my enemy," He spat. "Stand down!"
"I can't!" Pale cried. "I have to win too!"
"I have to prove my conviction to your Tactician... to Ezyria... to ALL of TYRION!" Maximus shouted, a burst of offensive energy flowing outward.
The impact launched Pale back... and he hit the sand, rolling for a few fulms, but back to his feet.
The boy brushed sand off of his face and looked back to Tycon with uncertainty.
Tycon glared at him and made the hand signal for [Engage].
Why was he looking for guidance? The fool boy was in a fight. Hesitation does not behoove a leader...
 Maximus' birth name is Gian Vanzano.
 This is a reference to Chapter 42. "If anything is thrown at me... and you fail to protect me, I'm going to shoot you."