Chapter 16:

Challenging the Youth

Adventures of Zeleon

72 hours ticked away like it'd been half a day. Serena had put her ill feelings towards Atticus over the Guardian Tournament away temporarily as a more pressing matter was at hand. She met him in the meeting quarters, where they'd have talks amongst Zelenia branch heads as well as leaders of other cities. The room was fairly plain save for the large round table that all could be seated at.

Serena sat herself across from him. The tension between the two is thick enough to physically manifest. His eyes gave a cold stare while he had his arms crossed, Serena would normally rib him for something like this, but she took a deep breath and spoke with a clear, calm tone.

"I know things aren't good between us right now, but our feelings are less pressing than this right now. The people of Xavera are active again, they attacked Hanyu's crew during the blood delivery, trying to stir the pot between us and the Vampires."

Atticus' mood shifted almost immediately, from pouty to somewhere between anger and shock. His posture showed this as he gripped the table's edge shaking from rage. "They...they're daring to challenge us again..?!"

"I've done a bit of digging, and they're beginning to mobilize. They call themselves the Blood Apostles, under the belief that they are the chosen to rule over humanity. They want to run via democracy as opposed to a patriarchy, I usually wouldn't take them seriously, but interferences like this could cause major rifts amongst ourselves as well as our relationships with the other races."

Atticus grumbled underneath his breath but managed to find a certain level of calm as he listened to Serena speak. After she'd finished his thoughts poured out in a surprisingly collected manner. "I see...they must have a leader or a few leaders then. This has...a very cultish ring to it, a single goal, idolization, and a separate set of beliefs used to oppose reality itself. I would prefer we take action as soon as a proper plan is in place."

Serena raised an eyebrow at his words, before a wry smile couldn't hold itself back from covering her face. "I guess you can act like a proper King...sometimes. But do you think they're an immediate threat to us?"

Atticus let out a grunt of displeasure at her mild shot she took at him, but responded with some composure. "If they're already attacking our promises to the others, then yes, a small rock only needs slight momentum to cause a rock slide, and this is no different. I believe we should have someone infiltrate them and collect information."

Serena nodded agreeably. "I believe so as well. But it's a matter of who we send there…"

Atticus made a quick retort that caught Serena off guard. "What about Courtney? Almost no one outside of higher ups and elders like myself know about her."

Serena looked at him with shock. "You'd be willing to entrust this job to a vampire? I can't tell if that's desperation or something else. However, as true as your statement is, the moment they ask her to eat something, she'll be exposed. I actually had a much more intriguing idea in mind. We should use Katrina."

Atticus slumped in his chair and grumbled showing his pure disdain for the idea. "They'd take her as a hostage."

"Hmm, would they? If she played it off like she planned to overthrow us, they might. Her telepathy can weed out non-believers of their cause. She is next in line to be the leader of humanity, that's invaluable. I believe she'd take this challenge as well. She's technically an adult at our standards now, and before long she'll be 18. A responsibility like this is something I know she wants, so let's give it to her. Right, Katrina?"

Katrina had been quietly eavesdropping on the conversation on the other side of the door, when Serena had called her out she jumped a bit before quickly regaining composure, going into the room almost regally as if she was just passing by.

"Of course, why wouldn't I want the pleasure of exposing those vermin of humanity?"

Atticus looked to Serena then his daughter, soon letting out an exhausted breath before speaking. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Father, I want to prove to you both I can lead with both authority and grace. Dealing with radicals is a better measurement of my readiness over having talks with others of our class. I promise I won't fail you both." Her words were surprisingly clear for someone who can be so unsure of herself.

"I think that's all I need to hear Atticus. I'm willing to let her prove her worth."

" know I can't go against both of I'll give this task to you Katrina, just...please be careful."

"Thank you father, mother."

Katrina gave them both a gentle smile before exiting quietly. As soon as she went down the hall she began skipping out of joy. "Finally! They're acknowledging me as the true heir. I don't need a husband to run this place, I need me and me alone!"


Meanwhile, Leon was underground living and spending his time as if he were part of the Komodrons himself. Their society is very balanced, with the males and females both actively working and training.

The hollow below spanned many miles, giving plenty of open room for living space; they had houses, markets, and even a dugout colosseum. Leon hadn't dealt with too many harsh adjustments besides everyone giving him firm glares, and some of the younglings running away from him scared. Humans were hardly welcomed to visit, let alone stay temporarily. The Earth human took it in stride, skepticism and judgment was something he was expecting. He always returned it with being aloof, or with a smile.

On this same day in training, mock battles were the focus. Leon struggled mightily, Komodrons have different fighting styles depending on their armor and body type. Their quickness or power overwhelmed him consistently. By the end of the afternoon he was barely holding himself up on his feet.

Varius approached him with a slight toothy smile. "This was more than you bargained for wasn't it?"

Leon looked at him with a slight discontent for his words.

"You guys train like this for most of your lives, this is exactly what I bargained for. Besides, I'm learning to read movements a lot better than before. Give me another week or so, and you'll see a completely different outcome."

Leon spoke with confidence despite feeling like his body locked in place. Varius had him under intensive training to put muscle mass onto his otherwise lenky build, results haven't shown but every day his body was on fire. As the others left talking and joking amongst themselves, Leon picked up his blade and was practicing until late in the evening.

As he returned to his living quarters, he was approached by one of the trainees unexpectedly. Salandra, a fresh adult prodigy that's arguably the best since Varius himself. She has a vibrant baby blue coloration, a rarity in itself amongst Komodrons, and stood only an inch shorter than Leon. He was a bit nervous, as he had no idea what she was up to, especially since she never acknowledged him.

"I saw you just now. You were the last to leave. Was it from sheer embarrassment? Or...were you working to never feel such embarrassment again?"

Leon usually retorted in a sarcastic and sometimes threatening way to being approached like this, but he thought better as he didn't want to cause problems. "Both hold a semblance of truth."

His response wasn't what Salandra wanted, her green eyes glared into his as her slit pupils expanded showing her quiet anger. "Stop holding back."

She pushed him firmly making him go back a few steps but never truly lost his footing.

This time he gritted his teeth with a slight growl as he stepped back into her with authority. "Why are you testing my patience like this?"

"Why wouldn't I? The rumors about you are clear to the passion you carry, yet you've been so demure and passive it's actually gotten to me. We've tested your patience time after time to get the real you front and center! How long have you held back? Since you got here? Recently? Just around us? I never realized a person like you could be domesticated!" Her emphatic words echoed through the underground, sparking a growing gathering around them.

"I was told to not start anything…"

She continued over his words. "I'm starting it. We've started it. Nothing ends until you show some spine and actually let it all out!"

Leon scanned around him. He even saw Varius amongst the crowd, and he did nothing to stop them. He realized, only Serena told him to hold himself back. Not Varius. Not even the Elder. Leon looked at Salandra and got into her muzzle. "You wanted the real me? You got him, you got the Earth human who's nothing more than a street fighter. Yes, I was embarrassed. Yes, I was angry that you all made fun of me. But I'm not quitting, nor will you make me. In fact! By the time I'm done here, I'll not only defeat you, I'll show Varius that I'm not your typical idiotic, self-centered Earth human by taking him to the brink and beating him too!" His words reverberated underground, though his confidence was maybe too out of hand, or maybe it wasn't. He has potential he can't foresee. The crowd was in a collective gasp at the gusto of his words, Varius cut the silence by laughing hysterically.

"You..!" Varius gained his composure as he took a deep breath, moving through the crowd as he got to the pair. "You are entertaining when you want to be Leon! But, I like your idea. Before you leave here, you must face Salandra. If you beat her, on your last day, I'll be your final test. Be warned, we Komodrons don't believe in holding back for the sake of a 'mock fight'. It's all or nothing."

The crowd around them looked on with anticipation almost. Leon caught onto this, and went with the wave of energy. "I'm fine with that. Besides, it seems everyone would want to see a showcase. So, how about this? In my final week, I face Salandra 4 days prior before my faceoff with you, with a full house bearing witness!

The crowd excitedly cheered. Major fights are a gift amongst Komodrons for the audience's entertainment and the combatants' growth and their name. Leon made this challenge without knowing the undefeated record that Varius has under this environment. Something unheard of after 49 fights. Salandra is hardly a slouch for her age as well, registering 17 straight wins after back to back losses.

Leon has a steep climb ahead of him, but he brought it on himself. Only time will tell if he can follow through on his bold promises.