557 Flawed Judgmen
Tycondrius took a deep breath, taking in the scents of the sun-warmed sand. He was growing bored, watching his young companion so thoroughly trounced in front of fifty-thousand-odd people.
Maximus of Ezyria was a grown man, twice the boy's age and near twice his size. In terms of combat, Tycon had initially deemed their abilities to be about equal.
The longer he watched them fight, the more he realized how flawed his judgment was.
Pale needed more training.
Tycon still had plenty he could teach the boy. Even accounting for the difference in mass, their force output was similar. However, he could win by comparing technical skill.
Lone was the boy's usual training partner. The Ranger had greater physical strength but lagged slightly in reflexes and moderately in mana control. Both would improve from sparring matches, especially with Tycon to observe and advise.
Pale displayed a high completion rating with several Skills-- far more than any mundane gladiator would bother with. However, his Skill activations were... extravagant, both visually and concerning energy expenditure.
The boy was... far too much like his father.
Rather than a monstrous mana pool, though, Quay had practiced the Blade Dance and effortlessly weaving Skills with striking for over a hundred years.
According to legend, Heroes often adopted complex fighting styles, bastardizing and elevating them beyond commonly understood limits. Pale had a long road ahead of him, to get to that level. Admittedly, following his father's footsteps was a decent enough goal to start with.
...But was too much expected of him? Especially considering that he was only a fraction of Quay's age.
The boy undoubtedly had the potential. The considerable mana reserves of a Spear Hero allowed him to activate consecutive skills with ease. With his innate combat genius, he mastered a wide variety of Skills... and at an alarming rate.
Tycon had nothing more to teach the boy about the spear. Pale's proficiency had vastly exceeded his own. He could teach him the basics of the Blade Dance-- but that would be a future lesson.
The greatest critique he could provide... concerned the boy's Skill usage.
Pale's mana formation of ⌈Legionbreaker⌋ was clean, perfectly executed... though the efficiency was sorely lacking. The Skill was designed to pierce rather than to overpower.
His ⌈Misty Step⌋ was agile and effortless. He was likely as competent with it as Mister Wroe, from whom he'd learned the movement technique.
Pale's timing for ⌈Shadowfang Strike⌋ was... appropriate. Unfortunately, it was rushed due to his circumstances.
The failure cost him an electrified uppercut to the abdominal area, several kicks to the side, and a spear stab to his unarmored thigh. To top it off, Maximus very picked the boy up and hurled him several fulms away.
Pale landed relatively near Tycon... probably to prove a point.
It was exceedingly polite, considering the plausible lethality in gladiatorial bouts. Maximus may have had a soft spot for children.
Tycon walked over to the defeated Hero and nudged him with his foot, "Pale. Do you submit?"
The boy got to his hands and knees, coughed violently, then rolled on his elbow to pomf onto his back. A bit of blood marked the sand beside him. Moderate to severe internal injuries.
A lesser gladiator would have surrendered long before reaching that point.
"Um... BosSs?" Pale sputtered, his voice as weak and pathetic as he looked, "Aren't you gonna ask me... ah... if this is the best I can do?"
"I wasn't planning to," Tycon rolled his eyes underneath his visor. "I think the answer, quite obvious."
"This... this isn't the best I can do!" Pale shouted, struggling but failing to sit up.
⟬ ⌈Inspirational Surge⌋ conditions met. Activate? Y/N? ⟭
Tycon frowned, sensing his System's offer to heal the boy. It was... quite strange. In theory, his System should only respond to his own verbal or mental commands.
« Negative. »
The boy would be on his own until the fight concluded.
Tycon certainly preferred the boy not be killed... but the match was just too strange. The boy was certainly capable before he Class-changed to Spear Hero.
In his current match against Maximus, something was missing. Conviction... combat creativity... daring and bravado, Tycon had seen none of it. He was activating Skills one after the other with little thought or planning.
Pale plopped back onto the ground, billowing a light cloud of sand, "It's no use... I took... too much damage, Boss..."
"Indeed," Tycon nodded. "I advise magical healing."
"Boss... can... can I get a heal?"
"What?" Tycon furrowed his brows, "No..."
"But... it really hurts."
"If you can whine about it, then you're not in dire straits, just yet."
Tycon crossed his arms and glared down. He did not like repeating himself.
Pale blinked several times, his gaze focusing slightly... "Should... should I just heal myself?"
"Yes. You should."
Pale looked to his side... gathered up a clump of sand... then poured it over his thigh injury, his bruised ankle, and even inside his chest plate... "⌈Healing Sands...⌋"
Tycon nodded, seeing the effects of the boy's rare ability. It seemed to tax him greatly, but his open wound sealed just as well as if he'd used his own ⌈Inspirational Surge⌋.
It baffled him that the boy had to be reminded to heal himself.
Also, that he put sand underneath his armor. It was going to chafe.
"Can you continue?" He asked.
Pale slowly got to his feet...
He said nothing.
Tycon felt his eye twitch as he uncrossed his arms, "Young man..."
The boy wiped at his eyes before looking up to him.
He was supposed to be a Hero. Tycon saw nothing but a hurt and crying child.
Grimacing and taking a deep breath, Tycon placed his hand on the boy's shoulder... "I once told you... how Sol Invictus operates. Do you remember?"
"Y-yes, Sir," The boy sniffed, "It was when Miss Seldin kidnapped me... I can't... give up. I haven't kicked... or struggled... or even tried to bite Mister Maximus yet."
So he did remember.
"I need you to fight... to the best of your ability. I will not ask for more... and I hope to accept no less. Your words... I believe them, as well. This... is not the best you can do."
⟬ ⌈Inspirational Surge⌋ conditions-- ⟭
« --not now. »
"If you feel overwhelmed..." Tycon continued, "there is no shame in admitting it."
"Has... my father ever given up?" Pale asked with trembling lips.
Going on about that fool, again? Tycon bared his teeth, "I think you know the answer."
Pale gulped hard, nodding slowly... "I want to continue."
"Very well," Tycon wiped the tears from the boy's eyes-- it was more efficient than him rubbing more sand into them. "Move quickly. Act with intelligence. Strike to kill. The training concludes after one more exchange."
"...Y... yes, Sir."
"Your volume," Tycon groaned. "--It's lacking."