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Cause [1.4.13]

Yasen was tired. As she slept, her mind flickered through the events of the day, always focussing around the one that had caused the most trouble: driving a spear through the back of Raziel. She found herself stood in the dark stone room once again, framed in the light from the universe portal machine.

The dream was shifting slightly, and as she looked down, she saw Raziel grinning up at her with a terrifying, bloody smile.

“Do you… remember… how we… met?”

Yasen remembered.

In her head, a memory resurfaced.

Three years prior…

 




 

There was a clatter downstairs, late at night in the Zionid Official Outpost. Yasen, who was napping after attempting to catch up with the day’s coursework, jerked awake and saw Harrut and several other Zionids running past.

“What’s going on?” she demanded.

“Break-in.” Harrut reported. “The screaming maiden of an alarm is ringing out into the night, and we are the princes who shall lay that alarm’s fears to rest.”

“Where?” asked Yasen. “C-can I go?”

Three years ago, Yasen had not been an Official of Bookkeeping under Harrut, but the Head of Recruitment. Her job had been less about foiling crimes and more about training the new recruits. For the last few weeks, she had been working with the latest Zionid Official recruit, a girl called Ephra. As much as she liked the training, she was desperate to be back in the field.

“Please.” Yasen said.

Harrut shivered for a moment, not sure what to do. He turned and looked at another Official. “You may leave this ship of justice to face the music of paperwork. And you,” he said, looking directly at Yasen. “May join as first mate. Do not make me regret this.”

“You won’t!” Yasen replied, and as the Officials ran out, Yasen ran after them, grabbing her spear from the spear rack beside the door, pulling on her helmet and rushing out into the night, feeling the wind on her face. This was what being an Official was all about.

A few minutes later, she’d already ascertained where they were probably going.

“The arena, right?” she called. A Zionid nodded in response.

“Think someone’s trying to rig the tournament tomorrow. There’s always one.”

Once they’d arrived at the arena, they saw that the alarm had been silenced, but nothing seemed disturbed. There was a second-floor balcony where a door had been forced, but the grounds around seemed relatively empty.

“Give me a boost.” Yasen said. “I’ll hop over and get in quickly, and you guys can search the grounds and first floor. It’s possible the perpetrator or perpetrators fled or hid after the alarm sounded.”

Harrut and the other Zionids helped Yasen clamber up and over the balcony, and she crept in after the criminals.

It was silent inside. The first floor of the arena was locker rooms, bathrooms, and training rooms. The second floor was relaxation, cafes and entry into the stands, which were a coliseum-style circular set. In the centre of the circle was the main arena where the tournament would be taking place.

It was a crapshoot as to where the possible perpetrators could be. Were they trying to break into lockers? Scuff the ground of the arena? Or just cause trouble upstairs? Yasen was going to find out.

Annoyingly, it was pitch black as she made her way through the darkened rooms. Somehow, the mystery entrant must have been able to navigate the room and move on to wherever they wanted to be. What were they after?

There was a clatter as a mystery voice cursed in irritation. Yasen immediately slid to the ground and stealthily moved out of the balcony room, to the large circular corridor that circumvented the whole arena. There was a set of stairs to her left, and a figure had just tripped on those stairs.

“No, wrong way. Fuck, the Officials are already here. That’s not good. …And now I’m talking to myself, fucking fantastic.”

It was too easy sometimes, being an Official. Yasen simply followed the monologuing voice down the stairs and into one of the smaller arenas.

“Ah! There!”

She fumbled for the light switch, hoping to reveal herself to the entrant, but she couldn’t find it, and her scuffing on the wall caused her armour to clatter. Yasen stared straight ahead as a shadow detached itself from the darkness and stepped forward slowly.

“…Oh, shit.” said the voice.

“‘Oh, shit’ indeed.” Yasen replied. “Yasen, Head of Recruitment. Are you going to tell us why you’re here when you absolutely shouldn’t be?”

“…No..?” replied the voice.

“I am highly adept at combat in the dark. I strongly advise you to step down now and just let us arrest you. It’ll be much easier for all of us.” This was a bluff, and Yasen had no idea whether she’d be able to fight in the dark.

“Look, I just need to g-”

“No. Step down, now, or I will be forced to attack.”

There was a gleam in the dark, and Yasen realised the figure was holding a spear upwards, ready to fight. She sighed.

“This could’ve been easy.”

“I don’t do easy. Not when it comes to her.” Raziel replied.

In the pitch black, both figures circled one another carefully. Yasen realised the Zionid was moving towards the door, and she enacted a quick and efficient strategy to take him out – charge for the door the moment he did, and swing her spear in a wide enough arc across the floor that it would trip him up. It would be the best and safest way to take him down.

The figure tensed, and ran. Yasen charged after him, swinging her spear as planned. The figure, whose eyes had adjusted to the darkness more quickly, leapt over the spear and landed next to the door. Yasen continued charged, and the two spears clashed. The figure leapt backwards, and began to attack. Yasen blocked with ease, but it was hard to see where the spear was coming from. She only hoped that the perpetrator was struggling as much as she was.

There was something strangely visceral about fighting in the dark. With only a vague idea of their opponent, both fighters were simply attacking as strongly as possible to push their foe back and buy enough time to either escape through or block off the exit. Yasen found herself actually struggling as they fought, and she realised that it wasn’t just because of the dark – whoever she was fighting was good. Very good.

Too good? She wasn’t certain if he was better than her, but he could handle the average Official, and that already made him in the top 25% of fighters on Zion.

As they continued to clash, it was only a few minutes until Yasen realised that she was not on top form. The mad dash to the arena had tired her out, and the figure wasn’t nearly as tired. He fought with unerring ease for someone literally in the pitch blackness, and Yasen realised that there was a creeping sensation down her spine.

Fear.

The moment she realised this, the fight was lost. The figure flicked his spear expertly upwards, causing her to lose balance just enough that he could bull forward and knock her to the ground. Within seconds, he had fumbled with the door handle, opened it, and sped out into the hall beyond. Yasen was on her feet immediately, as her eyes adjusted better to the gloom, and went after him.

It was impossible to see where he’d run off to, so Yasen made do with following the sound of his dash through the corridors and rooms. He was moving erratically, dashing through rooms left and right; he didn’t seem to have a route in mind, which was irritating because she wasn’t able to predict where he was planning on going.

She decided to take matters into her own hands, and put on a final burst of speed, colliding with the figure and sending him crashing to the floor.

“Fuck’s sake!” he exclaimed as he hit the ground, having his breath knocked out of him and sending the spear spinning across the floor. Yasen went for a light switch, fumbling along the wall, and her questing fingers found one. The light flicked on, revealing the perpetrator in his full form: an unarmoured, heavily-breathing figure with a shock of ginger hair.

“…Who are you?” asked Yasen.

The figure didn’t answer, but ducked his head, hiding his face with his ornate helmet, and dived for the spear. In seconds, he was back on his feet and running for the door.

“STOP!” yelled Yasen. There was a clatter from the rooms around, and two more armoured Officials ran in. The figure vanished out of the room, with Yasen following shortly after, and the Officials turned to one another, shrugged, then followed.

It was not to be. The figure slid and rolled along the floor, and Yasen tripped over him in her haste, crashing to the ground and banging her head firmly against the linoleum floor. Dazed, she clambered to her feet, unsteadily wavering as she watched the figure run away. In moments, he was gone, and the Officials came into the next room to find her leaning against the wall, cursing.

“…Is everything alright?” one of them asked cautiously.

“Damn it, damn it, DAMN it all!”

Cause [1.4.12]
Cause [1.4.14]

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