Chapter Eleven: Grand Tournament Round Two
Ethan returned to his shared room with Picario and discovered that his box full of clothes was already placed inside their bedroom. While Ethan pulled out his clothes, Picario came into the bedroom and asked, “So how was your date?”
Ethan kept his eyes on his task at hand and said, “First, it wasn’t a date, and second, do I detect a hint of jealousy?”
Picario threw his pillow and hit Ethan in the back of the head. “Jealous? Hah, with these good looks I can get any girl I want. I just don’t want date right now. Anyways after I saw your box full of clothes I went and did the liberty of grabbing you some hangers and getting you a dresser.”
Ethan stopped what he was doing and looked around the bedroom; there was a second dresser in the room now. He must have overlooked it at first. “Thanks Picario that’s really thoughtful actually.”
Picario shrugged and said, “Whatever.”
Casually Ethan folded his clothes and put them in separate drawers in the dresser or hung them up in the closet while he talked about the tour. “The last place we went which I cannot believe you didn’t show me is ‘Tilly’s Sweets Shop’. Seriously we have got to go there more often and just pig out on… well everything.”
“Sorry Ethan but I don’t go to that shop.” Picario said, his voice sounding apprehensive.
Ethan faced Picario now and asked, “Why not?”
Picario looked down at his feet shaking his head for a moment then said, “The Grand tournament is coming back up in a few days. I was thinking we could enter together and see how far we could get. We did pretty great together in the battle games so maybe we can place really high in the tournament.”
For whatever reason Picario seemed a little desperate to change the subject from the sweets shop but Ethan didn’t press it. Instead he agreed with Picario’s plan to work together in the tournament.
Saturday came in what felt like no more than a few hours as Ethan and Picario stood at the lobby of the 90th floor waiting for the portal that would take them to the grand tournament. Picario told Ethan that tournament portals only show up in the lobbies and that each floor would always take them to a specific location. The two of them wore a simple set of clothes that prepared them for most weathers; neither of them could afford the clothes transformation pin so they had to simply choose one outfit and try their best to avoid areas with bad weather.
“The area we will end up in is a grass plain with some light forest life around it,” Picario said. “Soon enough you’ll see hundreds of other phantoms teleporting to this floor to enter through the portal here; it’s a popular location. Do you have any weapons?”
“We can buy weapons?” Ethan asked surprisingly.
Picario sighed then said, “Right I forgot to tell you that there is a weapon shop. Give me a minute to think.”
But before Picario could finish thinking the small glow of hundreds of other phantoms started surrounding the two of them and soon the lobby was filling up with phantoms, prepared for the grand tournament. Ethan looked around him and saw most of these phantoms were more than ready and prepared for the battle to come.
Ethan leaned down and whispered to Picario so no one could overhear him and said, “I’ll give you tactical support and you can go all out offensive while we try to retrieve me a weapon from someone.”
Picario thought over this for a moment then said, “I can’t say I have ever tried to steal a weapon before so I’m not sure how well it will work.”
“You have any other plans?” Ethan mused.
Once more before Picario could think of anything, something interrupted him, this time it was the distortion of the air in front of them as a portal began to manifest itself. Before the portal was finished coming into existence Picario pulled Ethan down to him real quick and hastily whispered, “Run as fast as you can to the trees while counting to thirty. At twenty-nine, dive to the ground and make yourself invisible, stay there until I call out for you.”
Ethan didn’t understand what Picario was saying but he sounded a little scared. Ethan quickly looked around the room to see who or what might have his friend spooked but he couldn’t find anything before the portal came into existence. Everyone, including Ethan, ran into the portal.
On the other side of the portal was a beautiful and lushes green plains of grass with a sweet smell in the breeze. Small groups of trees were growing all around the plains and were spread out enough for you to see into them but weren’t so far apart that they wouldn’t provide decent cover for any single person.
As Ethan looked around him he saw no one and heard nothing but the gentle wind rustling some branches on the trees. But from his past experience he knew that any moment all of the other players would come in and the chaos would erupt as it likely always did. Then Ethan remembered what Picario had told him, to count to thirty and run to the trees then dive to the ground.
Ethan still didn’t know why Picario told him to do that but time was ticking away and he didn’t know how long he had been standing around enjoying the scenery. He lost more time thinking about it and ended up in a flat run towards the trees counting to him. When he hit sixteen Ethan dived to the ground and made himself invisible. He turned to lie on his back and watched the area he was just in, waiting.
Barley a second later the middle of the plains was filled with hundreds of other phantoms, some of them jogging towards different areas of the trees. At first they all looked around at each other assessing the situation when it happened. Things went down so fast Ethan hardly registered anything was happening at all.
The shadows of every Phantom came to life in the form of sharp looking tendrils. They swept through the people cutting them down like they were paper being cut through by the sharpest of blades. Limbs began to fly off people, and neon blood followed but there was no screams. The shadows cut down everyone in that first area so fast that people didn’t even have time to scream.
After the core group of phantoms was eliminated the shadow tendrils hastily raced for the others still running. The shadows caught up to them in the blink of an eye and impaled them all. This time their screams of pain were heard and the shadows killed these phantoms much slower, as if savoring it.
When everyone in sight was dead and their bodies faded to nothing two slender girls came up from a perfect circle of shade. These girls had numerous piercing all over their faces, their skin was pale as snow and their hair darker than the blackest of nights. Ethan was paralyzed with fear from these two girls and the horrific way they slaughtered all those people like it was mere child’s play.
The most frightening of them, Ethan thought, was how quickly they did take out everyone. Even while partially torturing the few people who did run the whole thing took less than a minute to be over with. Ethan’s heart continued pounding in his chest as he watched the girls casually walk away. Eventually they disappeared somewhere off into the distance but even then Ethan kept his invisibility out of fear alone.
Soon enough a voice called out to him, “Ethan, are you alright?”
It was Picario. Ethan relaxed a little more and dropped his invisibility then spoke in no general direction, “Yeah… I’m good.”
Ethan got to his feet as Picario came out from the trees. Picario took one look at him and said, “Are you sure your alright your shaking pretty badly.”
Ethan looked at his hands and saw they were visibly shaking as if he was out in the cold for too long. He took in a deep breath and slowly gathered himself together. Then he said, “Yeah I will be okay, I just need a minute.” After a few deep breaths Ethan continued, “Who the hell were those two?”
“They’re most commonly known as the ‘Shadow twins’. But mostly people refer to them as ‘Twisted Shadows’ because they are known to torture the people they capture in these tournaments. Not only that they’re insanely powerful, they always place somewhere in the top ten. It’s best to avoid them at all costs.”
“Yeah good call back there, if you didn’t tell me to do what I did id be dead too. By the way how did you know they were around did you see them?”
“Well another thing that makes them frightful is you almost never see them until they choose to come out. They hide in the shadows and strike from them as well. I’ve seen them actually stalk someone as their own shadow before waiting for the best moment to capture them.” Picario looked away for a moment then finished, “that was how I found out they tortured people. Anyways I have the ability to detect magic and once I sensed their dark magic near by at the last moment I knew I had to warn you.”
“Thanks again, but where were you hiding from all of this?”
“I levitated high up in the sky and watched the scene from there. I made sure to wait until I saw them go through another portal until I came down to look for you.”
Ethan looked back at the starting spot of everyone where they all came in through the portal, he included. It was empty now back to looking as peaceful as it had when he first arrived; there was absolutely no sign that there was ever a battle. The bodies of all the killed phantoms disappeared.
“I… do you think you can track them?” Ethan said.
“What!?” Picario asked.
Ethan faced Picario and looked him in the eyes and said, “Those twins, if you could track them and we were able to sneak up on them completely do you think that in one all out single attack you could kill them?”
Picario shook his head and asked, “Ethan what are you saying?”
“I’m saying we get them by surprise! Payback for what they did here, show them they can’t get away with these sorts of things so easily; not anymore.”
“I don’t believe what I am hearing.”
“But could you do it? If I got you in the position could you take them out in one shot?”
“Alright, maybe I don’t know, I always avoided them because they could be capable of tracking or sensing magic as well and if they were they will kill us slowly. Even if we return to the mansion when we die I don’t’ want to go through being tortured!”
Once again Ethan completely overlooked the most obvious things about his friend. Picario was afraid for good reason and more than that Ethan forgot he was still just a kid. Despite his great powers, years of experience, and hidden potential, deep down inside Picario was just a kid. And Ethan was asking this kid, his best friend, to chase after a horrific monster that terrifies him all in the name of some shallow justice.
Ethan spoke softer now and said, “Picario, I’m sorry that sort of pressure is unfair to put on you. One day we can make those two pay for the way they treat others, but for now let’s try to enjoy this game come on.”
Ethan smiled and started walking away but Picario didn’t follow him. He starred off into the distance deep in thought. Ethan didn’t get far until he noticed Picario wasn’t following him so he had to turn back around and get him.
When Ethan approached Picario took in a deep breath, released it then said, “If were going to do this we have to move fast, I don’t know if I will be able to find them if we dodle around much longer.”
Ethan frowned a little then said, “No lets leave it be for now. One day we will become stronger and that’s when we will strike.”
Picario turned to Ethan and said, “This was your plan and I’m going through with it with or without you.” His voice had a hard edge to it now. “If we can get them now by surprise then they will be more scarred of us when we do come after them another time. Right now we can still get them by surprise but we have to move fast so I’ll use my magic to boost our running speed. Now are you in or out?”
Now it was Ethan’s turn to feel scarred and anxious but he couldn’t let his friend fight those monsters alone. He sighed then said, “Lead the way.”
The two of them started running across the plains like the wind. Ethan felt a constant force propelling him forward and they made it to the dark brown tinted portal all the way across the plains in a matter of minutes. As they came closer to the portal the force propelling Ethan gradually disappeared until it was all together gone, and they were only a few feet from entering the portal. They proceeded slowly into the portal.
On the other side of the portal were some massive caverns with strange rock formations all around them. Some of the stalagmites touched together in a cone like shape, others simply connected in a slanted angle. These stalagmites were also at the least the size of Ethan; most of them larger though.
Picario stood perfectly still were he came out from the portal focusing on what appeared to be nothing. A few moments later he finally spoke up saying, “They’re much further down the caves, as far as I can tell they are still moving at a moderate pace.”
“So we can start jogging from here and both of us will save our energy until we get closer.”
“Yes but I have never been in this particular zone before so I do not know of its dangers.”
“Proceed with caution got it.” Then Ethan started jogging away leaving Picario behind momentarily.
When Picario caught up, Ethan smiled a little mischievously at him. Picario looked as anxious as Ethan felt but he did his best to hide his anxiety from his friend, even though both of them were scared one of them had to look like they weren’t.
As they continued through the dim caverns Ethan noticed that the path they were taking gradually became steeper. Ethan couldn’t tell by sight alone but he was sure they started going uphill now because he had to start working a little hard to move forward. “Ethan slow down, I can’t see anything its pitch black in here!” Picario called out.
Ethan stopped and turned around to see Picario was several steps behind him and walking slowly with his arms in front of him. “What are you talking about its dim yes but not pitch black,” Ethan countered.
Picario continued walking slowly stumbling on himself a couple times as he said, “Ethan I think you might have developed some sort of night vision powers. Because I’m telling you I see nothing but darkness all around.”
Ethan went back and grabbed Picario’s hand guiding him along safely. “Is that a thing?” He asked.
“It’s uncommon for magical phantoms but not entirely rare.”
“Alright just let me guide you through the dark while you guide us to the twin’s location.”
Soon enough the hill became very steep and Ethan and Picario were eventually forced to start crawling up it. Fortunately for them the caverns were relatively dry and the air started tasting foul, like something was burning. “Wait” Picario said. “I can sense something else, another powerful magician with the twins. It’s not too far ahead but it’s really far down.”
“Well what’s going-”
BOOM! The loud sound of an explosion echoing through the caverns interrupted Ethan. Picario and Ethan then looked at each other in the pitch black, only Ethan could see Picario’s face but he looked as surprised as Ethan was. The two didn’t say anything more as they started crawling up the hill as fast as they could; trying to reach the top.
“I’ve been looking for you two all over, I should have known you wouldn’t have faced me out in the open!” A female’s voice echoed through the caverns.
Ethan and Picario reached the top of the hill and found it ended at massive cliff that dropped straight down a thousand feet maybe more. At the bottom a blinding white orb of light, roughly the size of a basketball, hovered in the air illuminating the entire bottom area of the cliff. Down below Ethan and Picario were both able to see the twins and another girl. The other girl had purple eyes, pale skin, and an unmistakable pointy hat on her head.
“Marry…” Ethan whispered to himself.