Silverbolt faces Claras champion
|Vexdale Arena, Empty locker room
Patience gently patted Silverbolt on the back, "Be honest and be yourself. She's already impressed."
Constance looked very green and quite unsteady on her feet. She swayed back and forth, desperate to keep her footing. "I am such an idiot for doing this right now. I look and feel horrid..."
Silverbolt walked over to her. He lifted Constance and cradled her in his arms. She looked up at him and scowled, "Do you have to wear the mask?"
"No," He said. Silverbolt leaned his companion against the wall and sat next to her. He set the mask next to him. "What do you need to say?"
Constance growled, "What would be the point? Its like shouting at a brick wall..."
"You dropped an emotional boulder on me, and then took off. I didn't know you felt that way. I don't know how I feel half the time."
"How does that work?"
"My parents lived in a bad relationship. They never dealt with anything and favored sweeping things under the rug. They never expressed their emotions, nor took the time to teach me to deal with my mine."
Constance had a relieved look on her face, "How do you feel about me right now?"
"I couldn't tell you offhand, but I can tell you what I know," Silverbolt said. Constance remained silent and gave him room to speak. "I know you are my best friend. I know you put everything on the line when you said you loved me. I also know I am not ready for what you have to give."
Constance looked away as the tears poured from her eyes. Silverbolt wondered if he made things worse with his honesty. She wiped her eyes with her hands, "Why not?"
"As stated before, I am not connected to my emotions. I know they exist because once in a while I will get blindsided by one. If we get together now, we might come to resent each other."
"You can't possibly know that," Constance said. Suspicion was in her voice. Silverbolt wasn't lying.
"I watched my parents live it. They tried to fix things, but dad would give up too easily, and mom wasn't big on forgiveness." Not a trace of embellishment marred Silverbolts statement. "They stayed together for all the wrong reasons."
Constance's tears began to abate, and the rate of her sniffles had dropped significantly. "I want to try anyway."
It was still strange to have someone care about him the way Constance did. Did he love her? If so, when did that happen? Maybe it happened on Tuesday? It was time for a second opinion. "Excuse me for a second."
He opened the door, and Patience was still waiting. She smiled at him, "How are things?"
"Do you think I love Constance?" Silverbolt said.
Patience laughed and then stopped when she saw the serious look on the hero's face, "You aren't kidding. Okay, I know a surefire way to find out. Get Constance."
Constance stood next to him, "Why are we dragging her into it our problems?"
"Okay, now what?" Silverbolt waited patiently for the answer.
Patience got an amused expression on her face. "Kiss, Constance."
"You aren't going to take pictures and sell them to creepy old men, are you?"
"What are you talking about?"
Constance took the direct approach and laid one on Silverbolt, full on the mouth.
It was like he shocked himself at maximum charge. His entire body tingled weirdly. The longer the kiss went on the more he wanted. It was impossible to think with his brain in the left-field, whacking itself with a wooden mallet. He accidentally gave Constance a shock. She yelped and stood back.
"How do you feel?" Patience asked.
"I think I have an answer to the question now," Silverbolt said, donning the mask again. "However, I will keep it to myself until the tournament is over. Lord Rick O'Shea was a pushover, I highly doubt the next round will get easier."
"So do I," Constance said, smiling at him. "I already know the answer."
"Don't get weird about it," Silverbolt said as he headed back to the main area. He still wondered when he developed feelings for Constance. There would be plenty of time to figure it out later. It was time to prepare for the next battle.
Roust nervously scratched his bat-like ear, "Do you think anyone is looking for us? What if Jinjin gets caught? I hope the guards don't nail him for poking around."
Zinjo growled low, "Let me tell you what I told him. We have chosen to work on the wrong side of the law. It is a dangerous profession period. Both of you are out after this job."
"Where are we supposed to go?" Roust asked.
"Why not return home and take back what rightfully belongs to Jinjin?" an unseen voice asked.
Zinjo looked at Cracked hoof, "Find our visitor," he whispered.
"No need, imp," the voice said. Zinjo saw the shadow of a tree develop fiery blue eyes. A writhing mass of Darkness raised itself, taking on Jinjin's form. "We all could go home."
Roust growled in anger, "All the power in the world couldn't make that happen," He said. "Take your lies elsewhere."
The kludde took on the form of Zinjo's ex-wife, "Oh Roust and Jinjin don't know, do they? What would happen if I told them what lies deep in your heart of hearts? The landscape would change..."
Roust looked over at Zinjo, "What is it talking about?"
Zinjo was in love with Jinjin too. His marriage ended because of it. His ex-wife was kind enough to keep his secret. All he wanted is for his former master to be happy. "What is the plan?"
A tongue of blue flame licked lips born of shadow, "Change is coming, and we need skilled warriors to help bring it about. We want you, Zinjo. Join us, and I will give your companions the keys to Jinjins kingdom."
Zinjo nodded, "I accept after this job. I promised my team one last heist, and I aim to finish it."
On a cliff above the camp, yellow eyes watched the bandits. Another opportunity thwarted. He was strong, but not enough to take on the shadow creature. To know vengeance was a hairsbreadth away and being unable to carry it out was a growing frustration. The time would come soon enough. All he had to do is wait a little longer.
The crier stepped into the middle of the arena, "Welcome to the first semi-final match. Fighting for the Schaefer family, and last year's champion, the fangs of the jungle, Ocuil, the jaguar warrior." The crowd booed the warrior, a couple of children threw tomatoes. Ocuil didn't bat an eyelash as he made his way to the center of the ring.
Silverbolt studied the man from his entrance. He wore a primitive jaguar helmet and carried a decorated shield covered in feathers. His armor was a padded jaguar skin. Something about him interested Silverbolt. He couldn't say what it was.
An image of him kissing Constance played across his mind, derailing his strategic thought. For some reason, he couldn't get it out of his head. It was irritating. "Its the damn girl's fault. Complicating my life with her feelings. Why do I like it so much?"
The crier waited for the crowd to settle before continuing, "His opponent is a fan favorite this year. The Paladin of the people, and Jukebox Hero, the one, the only, Silverbolt."
If there had been a roof on the arena, the crowd would have blown it off. The cheers from the crowd drowned out all other noise. Ocuil nodded at him as if to say, "I regard you as an equal." Ocuil raised his weapon, then beat his decorative shield letting out a war cry. It was almost as if he was happy to see Silverbolt.
He saw Clara sitting in the box reserved nobles. Ocuil made an odd hand gesture, and Clara shook her head. If Ocuil had been a regular person, Silverbolt wouldn't have given it a second thought. He knew better. Ocuil had an ace up his sleeve and needed permission to use it.
Silverbolt stood ready fists raised feet shoulder-width apart. He intended to start with his fist to test Ocuil. "Are you both ready?" The crier asked. The combatants nodded, and the crier shouted, "Begin."
So far, Silverbolts little ploy was working. Ocuil was confused by his weaponless opponent. The jaguar warrior rushed him after they had circled each other a couple of times. Ocuil was faster than the average guard, but not as fast as Silverbolt.
Silverbolt held his ground, waiting for an opening to strike. The whites of Ocuil's eyes became visible. Silverbolt sent a charge into the quicksilver. A tendril of silvery ooze extended from the gauntlet hardening into the familiar meteor hammer. The deadly weight flew at ocuil whistling through the air.
Ocuil was fast enough to block with his shield. It shattered from the impact, angering the warrior. In an instant, Silverbolt wrapped both ends of the chain around his hands. Ocuil got his arm caught in the chain, before being thrown to the ground.
"Jukebox Hero. Jukebox Hero," the crowd roared. Silverbolt didn't showboat for them. Ocuil was already on his feet weapon at the ready. Clara was nodding furiously in Ocuil's direction. The air changed around Ocuil, as they traded blows, and his body started to expand.
Silverbolt saw fur creeping down Ocuils knuckles changing into massive paws. His face became feline, giving him sharp fangs. Ocuil was now matching his strength and speed.
The crowd watched their hero struggle, Ocuil had mastered his cat form and was not afraid to show it either. Silverbolt was barely keeping up with the storm of blows coming at him.
A three-hit combination came at Silverbolt, who blocked two and managed to counter the third, knocking Ocuil down. Silverbolt had a few seconds to breathe. Conventional tactics were not going to work. He had one idea, and it was a gamble at best. He couldn't lose here, and he didn't intend to.
The quicksilver formed the meteor hammer. Rather than try to strike his opponent, he waved it back and forth on the ground in front of Ocuil. The jaguar warrior got up, ignoring it at first, but the shine and movement slowly stole more and more of his attention.
Ocuil lowered himself to the ground, ass raised in the air. The spotted tail twitched like crazy, as the jade green eyes remained glued to the silver weight. The tail twitched faster and the man cats muscles tensed ready to pounce.
Silverbolt let Ocuil grab the weight, before sending a powerful shock down the chain and knocking Ocuil out. Silverbolt looked at Clara, fist raised in the air. The crier counted to ten, Ocuil remained down.
"Go, go, Silverbolt," The crowd shouted.
The crier waddled to the center ring, "Your winner. The Paladin of the People, and Jukebox Hero, Silverbolt."
The crowd chanted his name, but only one voice mattered. He scanned the gathered masses and saw Constance clapping and cheering louder than anyone. He couldn't help but smile at her. As he headed off to find her, he tried to figure out the exact moment he fell in love.
He shook his head, "What am I doing? My ass is still on the line, and I have one more match to go."