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“These feathers can be used to make magic mantles. With these, we can sprout wings and fly.” Rhynn has cooked steak and eggs this morning, with sourdough toast. “I figured the mantles would also make us look more like a team in the arena.”
“Oh, that’s neat. Who can make the mantles?” A feathered mantle sounds exotic. Will we be accused of cultural appropriation by an indigenous tribe? Too bad, I will bomb them with poop using my flying mantle!
“That night goblin tailor who made your clothes. We’ll drop them off on the way to the arena.” While saying that, Rhynn’s phone chirps. “Speak of the devil. We’ve got another match set up.”
“Who are we fighting?” Podlihob inquires, pausing his assault on a steak, juice dribbling down his chin. He had been watching sports highlights while we ate at the table, but our arena matches are a big deal to him.
“Sponsored arena team. Alba got us a decent challenge. This team is sponsored by a sports drink.” Rhynn tears into a steak, savoring the flavor.
“Which drink? I’ll research the team. And when’s the match?” Podlihob quickly scarfs down the rest of his breakfast, eager to get to the research.
“Light Tincture? Never heard of it. The match is tomorrow night.” Rhynn sounds unconcerned.
That name sounds stupid to me. I bet their logo is made out of light bulbs or something.
“Got it. I’ll be back after a while.” Podlihob grabs another cup of coffee and heads to his bedroom.
“Let’s call today a rest day then. I’ll drop off the feathers and tell him to make it a rush job for tomorrow. Did you want to come with me?” Rhynn pushes his plate back and cleans his mouth with a napkin.
“I need to study for the next patriotization exam. There’s a lot to memorize.” I have a hard time memorizing it all. I found a notes window I could open, and I’ve been copying the information I need into that. Is that cheating? I don’t know and I don’t really care. This immigration class seems like brainwashing into patriotism.
“If you need any help with studying, just let us know.” Rhynn and I clear the table.
“I should be okay. I’ve come up with a decent study method.” I should be good with my method as long as the exam isn’t verbal, and our quizzes have all been written.
“I’ll be back in a little bit. You have a lunch request?” Rhynn asks as we finish cleaning the kitchen.
“Some of those pizzas like we got the other week. That one with the spicy sausage was especially good.” It had a sauce on it made with moldy cheese. I was leery of eating it at first, but now think I might stab people to get a slice.
“Pizzas sound good. I’ll grab us some beer while I’m out. See you later.”
Rhynn leaves and I go to my room to “study”. I put on some music and copy another chunk of the book into my notes window. The music is fast paced electronic dance music, something I can mindlessly listen to while staying awake. Podlihob likes it for training and work-out sessions.
This book is so boring. There’s this guy named Delrubian Marquize who invented the illusion rune tech and made the entire nation the technological giant it is today. He’s still around and is a hojillionaire or something. He reformed all sorts of markets, he turned special needs people who used to be recipients of social welfare into productive members of… AUGH I just don’t care. The guy is an illusionistr so the book never shows a picture of him since the pictures wouldn’t be accurate. He’s been nominated to lead the corporate council, whatever that is, but keeps deferring to other CEOs, I don’t know what that means.
These classes are the worst part of living in this city. Five more months of classes and then we have the final exam. I have finished cramming the current selections from the book into my notes window when I hear Rhynn yelling that he is home. I turn off my music and exit my room to see Rhynn with a stack of pizza boxes and a case of beer.
I knock on Podlihob’s door and he comes out lightly covered in sweat. I guess he was in there for a few hours? He works out in his room a lot. He must have finished that research.
“Pizza? Fuck yeah.” Podlihob wipes some sweat off with a towel as he comes out. Everybody loves pizza. Pizza is the universal symbol of happy meals. Those who make bad pizzas deserve only castigation! That is my pizza philosophy. A pizza-sophy, if you will.
“The team we’re facing are all magic warriors. The leader uses a spear and specializes in haste and slow spells. The number two uses a great axe and casts buffs and debuffs, mostly just stat changes. The third is a ninja with a chain-sickle. I hate ninjas.” Podlihob, you’re totally a ninja! You use stealth and assassinate enemies all the time in the dungeons! Is this professional rivalry?
“Sounds like we might need to take them seriously. I call dibs on the great axe guy.” Rhynn has no hesitation in picking the opponent with the biggest muscles.
“I am definitely going for the ninja.” Podlihob, you might be a hypocrite.
“I get the guy with haste, then? I guess I have a plan for dealing with him.” Haste doesn’t help if you’re too heavy to move, after all.
“We’re still not taking these guys very seriously, but I’ll help if you guys seem like you need it. I think we’ve got good odds, even if they are fellow players.” Rhynn takes a swig of his beer. “The mantles should be done tomorrow. I think if we are all flying, that will give us an advantage against these melee shlubs.”
After lunch, Rhynn busies himself with pickling some vegetables, Podlihob goes back to his room to train, and I am left to studying. The afternoon passes in a lazy blur, punctuated by helping Rhynn in the kitchen when he wants an extra set of hands.
The next morning is laid-back as well. Rhynn picks up the mantles at midday, and we head to the arena late in the afternoon. Rhynn’s mantle uses the orange feathers, Podlihob’s are purple, and I got the pink feathers. Rhynn tells me the pink feathers will help turn me into a lady’s man, but I’m not sure what he means. We tested them on the roof of the apartment building briefly, and I found I could increase my speed and maneuverability by changing my weight.
At the arena, there is again a knot of sports reporters. Rhynn once again babbles non-answers to their questions. A few ask Podlihob questions as well; he repeats the same non-answers as Rhynn. Nobody mentions me or talks to me.
Alba is waiting outside our locker room.
“You boys giving us a show today?” he asks.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I told the reporters. You’ll have to watch to find out.” Rhynn pushes past him into the locker room. Once inside, we change into our battle gear and put the mantles on over our equipment.
Our entry into the arena is again accompanied by pyrotechnics. This time we enter together, with Rhynn in the front. Rhynn’s plan is simple. He’ll charge the great axe guy and beat him down with pure strength. Podlihob will snipe the ninja with the help of a special “tracer turret”. And I will immobilize the guy with the spear and mince him with my wands.
We raise our arms to the cheers. There’s a section holding up signs in support of Rhynn, and I think I see some masks in the crowd that look like Podlihob’s clown mask. Is he getting a cut from that merchandise? Gadlihob, we need a lawyer on the case, stat! The announcer gives Rhynn and Podlihob fancy nicknames; I do not get mentioned.
I pull out my wands, Podlihob readies his crossbow, and Rhynn adjusts his gloves. The other team, wearing equipment plastered in ugly sponsorship ads, tighten their grips on their weapons. A horn blares, indicating the start of the match.
Rhynn vanishes, appearing in front of the great axe wielder and grabbing at the axe from him. They’re locked in a battle of strength over the weapon. Podlihob tosses out a turret lightly, which begins floating above us and shining a laser on the ninja, before several blasts from the crossbow put the ninja down. He had just started spinning his chain over his head, poor guy.
I raise the gravity to a really high level on the guy with the spear. He’s still in the middle of using haste on himself, when he collapses from my efforts. I decide he might be able to get back up and continue to increase his weight. Finally, I extend one wire from my wand, then slice and dice with it.
Of course, since the wire is invisible, it looks like he just fell down on his own, I raised a wand, and he fell into a bloody mess of body parts before turning into light particles. Rhynn has thrown the great axe into a wall where it is currently embedded and laid out their big guy with a single punch.
We win our second qualifying match. The crowd goes wild.