558 Heroes Never Lose
Pale stood a dozen paces from Maximus. The pain had gone away somewhat... but it was going to get worse later. He needed to sleep it off... or maybe ask Troia to heal him.
She was a healer... even if she was a little... huggy? She liked to hug people. He didn't mind it too much? But she was supposed to be really important-- and it made Lady Natalya really mad?
Maximus twirled his spear to the sides and above his head, then locked it pointing forward, "You really should have stayed down, kid!"
The greatest gladiator of Ezyria began to walk towards him...
His steps were really slow... and he was watching closely... being really careful...
Was he tired? He didn't look tired. He didn't look hurt, at all, actually.
Pale was very tired... his body was telling him that it needed to rest. He was hurt too... a lot-- physically.
It didn't feel good fighting someone so strong after getting used to winning all the time.
He was so excited after training with the Sea Wolves. He'd dueled and beaten all the other Officer recruits... and all the enlisted in his squad... And together, they'd won engagement after engagement...
Because of them, Pale had become so much stronger!
But... all of his friends had the same goal. They were all training, too... just as hard as he was.
He... hadn't taken the training as seriously as he should have.
He played around too much. It was fun to win against the bad guys. He felt warm when he helped out the Sea Wolves in his squad. He fought hard, because he was praised for killing so many pirates or being brave or saving lives... He liked to laugh at their dirty jokes and to play spades and... and argue over who has to scuzz the decks.
He forgot that his number one reason for becoming a Lieutenant... was to grow strong... to earn the right to become the next guild leader of Sol Invictus... to follow the path his dad took.
Boss Tycon was just as strong as Pale had remembered. It felt like he'd never catch up.
He'd heard that Lone had gone up in both Rank and Class. Boss said that Taree was training with Mister Dragan. And Sasha had learned to do high-level formations...
Pale had done a lot with Captain Lang Hai... and he'd even sparred with him a few times-- the other Officers, too. No one was as strong as anyone in Sol Invictus. No one was as strong as Maximus...
It wasn't fair... but it was.
Troia said he was a Hero. It meant a lot of responsibilities... but only because the Hero Class was the most powerful Class in the Realm.
Boss was watching. His dad was in the crowd somewhere... watching him fail.
"I can't give up, Mister Maximus," Pale inclined his head.
"Tch... because the Tactician ordered you to?"
Pale gripped his spear and tried not to let his voice shake... "Because I have to. You wouldn't get it."
He began side-stepping to the right... and Maximus copied him, circling in the other direction.
"You said you're fighting for pride," Maximus said, wearing a serious expression. "My pride... is no less than yours."
"Yeah... I know..."
Mister Maximus was fighting for his sister. Pale had never met her, but she seemed nice. He was fighting for Ezyria... and for his own guild. He was fighting not just to be strong... but the strongest.
Pale was tired, he was hurt... but he was confident. He'd practiced his spear for so many bells... every sun, every week. He practiced his Skills until he puked... until Captain Lang Hai threatened to keelhaul him-- whatever that meant.
He could have practiced more...
But... he'd practiced enough. It had to be enough!!
Troia said... that Heroes are born to be the saviors of their worlds.
That meant... he couldn't fail. Heroes don't lose. They can't.
Pale took in a deep breath... tilted his head back... and he screamed. It was just like he'd practiced... words he'd yelled a hundred times before, with his voice and his heart.
It was his battlecry.
"DEATH!!!! To The Enemies!!! OF SOL INVICTUUUUSS!!!"
He ran forward, his body burning hot. His mana flowed through every single part of his body like a hundred-thousand-fulm waterfall! He stabbed, he swiped, he slashed... he used ⌈Misty Step⌋ and ⌈Shadowfang Strike⌋ hoping-- praying Maximus would be a half-second too slow.
Maximus went on the defensive. It wasn't panicked... it wasn't weak... but he couldn't find a window to fight back! He wasn't as fast as he was before! Maybe that was why Maximus didn't attack him when he was down. He needed time to recover, too!
Something... something just felt right. He had the advantage! Pale swung his spear low, then stabbed the blade into the ground and swung on it for a double-kick. The mana surging through his legs made them feel heavier than a thousand ponze of steel!
It hit Maximus' arm! He staggered to the side.
Pale smacked his spear haft into Mister Maximus' chest, then he stabbed at his leg.
Maximus barely deflected it, but that let Pale batter him twice more in the chest with the other side of his spear.
Bam! Bam! Maximus countered with a wide diagonal swing-- Pale ducked under it.
That was it! He could finish the fight with a single move!!
"⌈BlaaaastBAAACK!!!⌋" He concentrated mana into his spear, then swung it like a club.
BOOOOOMMMMM! The explosion from the impact rang in his ears, but Maximus flew up into the sky.
Yes! He did it! He successfully injured his opponent!
And his opponent... stretched big blue scaly wings out, and started hovering in the air.
"⌈Maximus⌋!" More magic attacks rained down from the sky.
Pale ran, dodging and spinning and deflecting lightning bolts. They weren't as many of them-- and there was a longer duration between bolts. But... Maximus was in the air? Unless he ran out of mana, he could stay up there forever.
"Your pride is NOT ENOUGH!!" Maximus shouted.
"I know it's not!" Pale yelled back.
His flying opponent tucked in his wings, plummeting down, his spear sparking and crackling as bright as the sun, "Then SHOW ME your CONVICTION!!!"
Pale steadied his stance. There was no point in meeting him in the air-- Boss said so. If he had both feet on the ground, his attacks would be stronger.
He braced his spear... waiting for that moment.
Maximus was getting close. There was a lot of mana...
It scared him.
If it hit him, he was going to get really, really hurt... or maybe even get really close to dying.
"I just-- I JUST!!!" Pale cried, "I don't wanna be LEFT BEHIND!!!"
He'd made so many friends... Sorina and Miss Korr and Mister Dragan and Mister Wroe... Sasha... Troia...
He didn't want them to leave... like his dad did.