I opened my eyes. Staring at the same ceiling I've seen ever since I can think. I get up hesitantly parting my hair to the side so I can see.
As I catch my senses, my drowsiness starts to fade away.
“Are you awake? We have to get ready to go!”
I took my time getting ready, since it was early it was a blessing in disguise. I brushed my silk-like blonde hair and tied it in a ducktail. I buttoned up my shirt and straightened my dress. Slipping my legs through skin tight leggings, I checked myself in the mirror. I zipped up my heeled boots and then grabbed my bag. Swiftly leaving my room and meeting up with my Aunt downstairs.
“Morning, Luna. Mom and Dad left any messages today?”
“Sorry, hun! They must be busy today too” with a look of pity, she sighed and scratched her head.
“That’s fine, Luna. Well, let’s get going!” as Luna recovered, we both left the house and got into her car.
Luna Walker, I've known her my entire life. Ever since my parents got overwhelmed with work, she’s made it her job to take care of me. I’m really thankful to her.
“So, you decided to dye your hair green after all?” I asked as I observed her emerald bob cut. Her hair looked like fine wavy strings of emeralds. “It looks pretty!”
“Ah, yeah, I thought it was time to give it a go. Nothing to lose after all!” As she swerved the wheel and focused on the road, I managed to see her smile. Thankfully she’s in a good mood.
As we were waiting for the lights to turn green, I went ahead and played some music. First on the playlist: Cologne by beabadoobee. I turned up the volume as Luna bopped her head to the rhythm.
“Starting me off with a good song? You must really wanna put me in a good mood today!”
“Hm? Now, what could you be on about, dear Luna.” I giggled before I could paint my face in smugness.
Finally making it to the Academy, we get out of the car and walk our way down to the entrance. As we get closer to the gates she asks.
“So, did you decide if you’ll participate in the Tournament?” I took a moment to gather my thoughts. Luna’s been there for me all these years… if I can help her even a little…
“I don’t see why not! It’s the least I could do.” I replied.
“Don’t force yourself if you don’t want to, okay?”
“It’s fine! What’s the use of having wings when you don’t fly?”
Given that I was selected for the tournament, I got to skip classes after lunch to focus on training. I made my way to the training hall where Luna would be; as our instructor. I wonder who else got selected.
I walked into the hall where Luna stood in front of the seats, with two other students sitting in the front row. I walked over as Luna greeted me.
“Just in time! Now, it’s time for introductions, take a seat, dear!” As I took my seat next to one of the boys, next to him sat a dull boy with a cocky attitude given how he sat. What’s with that aura?
“So who wants to begin introducing themselves?” the other student and I were hesitant and before we could make up our minds the dull boy raised his hand and stood up.
“Well, I’m Colt Samuel Doyle, nineteen years old, the son of the Institute’s head Director. I’m here because I deemed this place to need me, disappointed that I was right but glad I wasn't wrong, haha!” we were silent, we all thought it… What’s with that cocky attitude?
The next boy stood up and introduced himself.
“I’m Kevin Thomson. Eighteen. Looking forward to this.” Too short! What’s with these two?
“Then, Layla, go on, hahaha…” Luna didn’t do much and it was only lunch, yet she looked like a sun-dried tomato left to dry for too long.
“Layla Reynolds, Nineteen, I’ll just say this to you two.” I turned to the boys and stared at them. “Don’t slow me down, you’ll regret it.” Both of them broke in a cold sweat as I turned back to Luna and sat down. While Colt seemed to remain speechless, Kevin smirked and burst into laughter.
“Bahaha! Interesting! I thought I was gonna be stuck with this pompous prick for the entire tournament. You’re a saviour miss! Good to meet ya, Miss Walker too.” He smiled as he ignored Colt’s existence. I turned to Luna as she exhaled in relief, as Colt kept murmuring snide comments to himself she began to talk.
“Alright, before we start I just have to let you know something important,” she rummaged her inner breast pocket from her jacket as she pulled some type of holographic device. She placed it down as it expanded and took the shape of a sphere around us. Even turning invisible. “Now we won’t be heard. Listen carefully!”
“W-What’s this about!? I didn’t sign up—” before Colt could completely panic, Luna made him shut up as she stared daggers into him.
“Now, listen, this tournament is not as innocent as it seems. It’s a front between the institute and the terrorist group Renaissance to supposedly ‘converse’ a peaceful resolution. The only reason our College is involved is so Renaissance doesn’t do anything rash.”
“Huh? Reason with those terrorists?” called out Kevin. “What do they hope to talk them into? Attack less?” He wasn’t wrong.
“For all we know, Renaissance wouldn’t accept this without an alternate motive.” As I spoke my mind, I couldn’t rack my brain as to what that reason could be.
“Doesn’t matter how many theories we come up with, we have to proceed carefully. Whatever you do, keep these to yourselves. That goes double for you, Colt.” Although he was too proud to agree, he nodded.
“Now, the tournament itself will only be three one-on-one fights it seems. Before that, it’ll be your normal festival, convention type of day.” As she explained, a question hit me.
“Do you know the names of the students we’re up against?” I asked.
“Yeah…” she paused for a second “Austin Hayes, Ivy Morgan and Ace Adams—” as she finished her list Colt stood up wearing a gloomy expression.
“T-That Ace… You’re saying… that weird kid is in this too?!” he asked in a panic
“What’s that? You know the kid?”
“Know him? Tch… That guy is nothing but trouble! It’s his fault that I…” He murmured to himself as he drowned in confusing anger. Props to whoever this Ace is, if just the mention of his name keeps him quiet, he must be impressive. As our conversation went on. We finally got to train and show our abilities.
Kevin went first, as a bunch of dummy bots were set up for our practice, he browsed the selection of weapons we were provided. He picked up a bow, arrows and a small sword sheathed to his hip. The bow had a digital sight that showed weak points or potential targets.
Some of the arrows were set to be homing, chasing after heat signatures if used. Despite those enhancements, the bow wasn’t for everyone. It became blatantly obvious that Kevin had skill in archery. He took 4 arrows as he pulled on the string with all of them evenly spaced, he turned his bow horizontally and let go of the string, sending the arrows right through the dummies, penetrating 4 and knocking them back into another row of dummies. This kid show’s talent, no wonder he’s here.
Next up was Colt’s turn to show us what he’s got. He took quite a while to pick his weapons, he went for a double-edged sword and a compact grenade launcher at his side. He managed to barely cut down two or three dummies and jumped up as he shot a grenade at the lot, blowing away most of the dummies. He’s got reflexes and athleticism, but a lot of improvement must be made.
“Alright! Layla, it’s your turn, sweetie, show these boys how it’s done!” cheerfully, Luna encouraged me to go all out, as more dummies appeared and some of them seemed to be a little advanced. Let’s give it a go!
I picked up a cyber morph weapon, it was a sharp spear and could also morph into a long gauge single shot shotgun.
As I walked towards the crowd of dummies, I tightened my chest and stiffened my shoulders, I felt the circuits within me power up with each step that I took. On my fourth step, I felt a release from my back as a set of silver, gold holographic bionic wings sprouted. This is my power.
I lunged forward as I gripped my spear, using my right foot to boost myself forward into the crowd, slashing them as my wings took me to my destination. As I take out a large group of the robots I steer up watching the dummies from above. I spin my spear as I expel as much energy into my wings.
Controlled by my nerves I line up the metallic feathers as I get ready to signal a rainfall upon my enemy. I wave my hand down as the countless feathers attack the dummies, making them fall one by one basked in golden lustre.
As the light and mist cleared I landed on the ground as I withdrew my wings. I sighed and took a look around me finding metal junk bits and pieces all around the arena. I might have overdone it…
After training was done, so were the classes. While most had plans to go home. Luna had a surprise. While driving she told me she wanted to take me somewhere we could relax and talk for a while. I couldn't help but agree, it's good to have downtime out and about now and then.
Before I knew it we reached a really cute café and as we entered Luna went ahead to put our orders in. I took the opportunity to occupy a small table next to a group of people my age. The cafe was amazing, the atmosphere was very noir and kept to a classy yet chic aesthetic, dim lights and the whole lot. It was very impressive.
Although it wasn't my intention to, as I rested my head on my hand I overheard the group's conversation.
“So, had any contact with him?” said a girl with a nose piercing.
“Not at all, it’s like he dropped from the face of the earth, honestly,” said her friend.
“Hmm, well I’m sure he needs time with his parents, after that accident who wouldn’t?” said the boy next to the nose pierced girl.
“I get that, but at least a message would be nice. We are his friends are we not?” as the girl sighed, another person joined their table with a tray of drinks in their hands.
“What’s this. What’s this? Whatcha talking about?” they asked as they sat down.
“We’re talking about Ace. Ace Adams, remember? The guy with the curly hair, though he keeps it tied up.”
What the—? They’re talking about The institute's Ace Adams? Talk about a coincidence…
“Oh! That guy, so no news on him?”
“Not even a shred, that bastard thinks he can ignore us like that?” said the girl. “I’ll ignore him now too! You guys should ignore him too if he messages us.” she pouted.
“You know I can’t do that Billie, Ace is our friend.” said the other girl “Plus, let’s cut him some slack, he probably has his reasons.”
After that, their conversation drifted to topics that didn’t interest me, holidays and such. As Luna brought our drinks I suggested we go out and walk while we drink.
We stopped by a bench in a nearby park as the sky turned a beautiful vermillion, the trees danced with the wind as I felt the gentle breeze caressing my skin. I took a sip of my frappuccino and the cold soothed stress built up over the day. Luna stood by my side when I began to wonder a few things.
“Say…” I turned to Luna “Why’d you decide to give me these wings?” I asked
“Why, huh?” she leaned back onto the bench as she sipped on her coffee “my selfishness might’ve been part of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You probably don’t remember but when you were 6, and your parents were abroad that time as well, you asked me.”
“Luna, can you make me wings so I can fly to see mommy and daddy?”
“The reason it was my selfish gift to you is that I wanted to see you happy. Your parents ain’t bad people, Layla. I am completely in love with my work too, but I could never ignore my cute little niece when she wasn't smiling.” she placed her hand on my head as I looked at her “That’s why I’m sorry, for being selfish.” she smiled.
Finally home, we unlocked our door and headed straight to our couches. Exhausted we took our shoes off, after a whole day of wearing them, the elaboration from the pain was heavenly.
“Finally! I swear this is the last time I will get my shoe size to be a complete fit!” I exclaimed.
“I thought my feet were gonna explode while I was walking… remind me to get a slightly larger size next time, Layla…”
“This is no time for jokes, Auntie Luna… You have a phone don’t you? Tell Siri or something to remind you when you’re at the mall…”
“You’re young, Layla, my dear niece. Your memory is better than this old woman’s.”
“You’re only 28…”
Night came quicker than expected, for the night we prepared ourselves some tea and enjoyed some binge-watching on Netflix.
Season 4 Episode 6 “I am the one who knocks!”
“By the way, what’s the plan for the tournament,” I asked “How are we going to deal with Renaissance?”
“We have a few placeholder plans, but nothing concrete, we need more intel to pinpoint our course of action.”
“Hmm, is there a reason you haven’t gotten the intel yet?”
“Yeah,” Luna elaborated “two of our agents who were close to figuring out almost the key to their plans were pretty much attacked. Knocked into comas both of them. We have special operatives watching over them so no harm or lethality comes over them. If they wake up they’ll most likely have the answers we need. Until then we’re stuck.”
“They must’ve been quite the agents, huh?”
“Not even the tip of the iceberg, sweetie.”
“So for now, the training for the tournament is all we can do…”
“As much as I wish it wasn’t, yeah pretty much.”
“Then, we might as well do our best. I’m sure our opponents won’t go easy on us just because we happen to be on the same teams. Big Picture-wise!”
“Well, you’re right about that!” she chuckled “Apparently one of them fought with the Silver Fang and managed to last for a few minutes!”
“He managed to go toe-to-toe with that combat monster of an old man?!” In a surprise, just one question popped into my mind. “Which one of them was it?”
“That Adams kid, he’s the son of our agents…” Luna sighed and scratched her head.
“Just who is this guy…?”
“That poor kid can't even see his parents, if they do, renaissance might make a move on both of them to spite their parents…”
“He’s got a younger sister. Transferred with her to the Institute.”
“Is that right?”
It’s odd, I have a feeling this isn’t the last I’d hear about this Ace Adams… If he managed to give that Silver Fang a run for his money, that’s impressive. Maybe he could teach me a few tricks to beat that old man.
After getting ready for the night, Luna and I both split into our rooms, ready to sleep. Although it took me a while as I kept staring at my ceiling for a few minutes. I couldn’t help but think that this tournament might be more interesting than I thought it would be.
As I turned to the side on my bed, slowly I drifted from my thoughts into my subconscious mind. Spiralling through memories, unable to make sense of them. I felt a snake slither around my body, from my thigh to my waist and from there to my shoulder. It was a friendly snake, yet it looked frightened as it kept close to me. Its fangs and eyes rivalled those of a demon’s, but he had no plan on using them. Instead, he slumbered, he felt safe under my protection. Its scales were red and lustrous. I kept the snake at peace as I assured its safety, watching over him as I drift away with him near my breast.
It’s safe now, you can cry if you want to cry, and laugh if you want to laugh, I’ll protect those for you.
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