Chapter 0:

Welcome to the Arena

After School Arena Book 1

Two warriors stand in an open area made of dirt, encircled by a high wall. More walls can be seen in the distance, rising higher than the first, the final iteration blocking out the horizon due to its skyscraper-level height. From a bird’s eye view, the entire construction resembles an inverted tier cake. There are no entrances or exits.

The warriors are swaying back and forth almost imperceptibly, as if in a trance, gradually fading into existence as the Saturation process finishes. The first wears red armor and wields a morning star and shield. The second also has a shield, but is armed with a double-headed axe. Their armor is identical except for the difference in color. It is a medium-type variant that provides a balance of both protection and mobility. The warrior's faces are covered by an armored mask, concealing their identities. They are the same height and build; neither has an obvious physical advantage over the other. 

A bell chimes, echoing throughout the Arena, waking the fighters from their stupor. As they gather themselves, they notice their counterpart standing across from them and quickly take up fighting stances, readying their weapons for battle. The warrior in red notices the other’s axe and lets out an obnoxious laugh, giving up on his stance almost immediately.

“What, did you choose the wrong weapon!” he proclaims in a nasally voice. He composes himself and in a serious, threatening tone concludes, “I’m going to teach you a lesson, serf.”

The warrior in grey maintains his stance, completely unperturbed by his foe’s comments. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about this.”

“Whatever, you’re the only one that’s going to be sorry when I’m done with you.”

The warrior in grey doesn’t respond further. A charged silence settles over the arena.

Another bell chimes, louder and deeper than the first. Its booming peel reverberates throughout the colosseum, illustrating its significance through its sheer volume. 

The warrior in grey rushes forward without hesitation, surprising his opponent, who maneuvers into a defensive stance in response. The gap between them disappears in a matter of seconds, the warrior in grey showing no signs of stopping his charge.

With an echoing crack, the two fighters collide shield-first. The warrior in red remains standing, his defensive stance paying off. He immediately attempts an overhead strike with his morning star in response while they are pressed together, but the warrior in grey shoves himself back just in time. The warrior in red follows up with another swing, but his opponent raises his shield, blocking the attack. The force of the blow creates a dent in the metal, but is otherwise ineffective. The warrior in grey maneuvers outside of the warrior in red’s range, keeping his shield raised, breathing heavily from the exertion of his charge.

“Ha! You thought you could rush me?” the warrior in red taunts. He confidently approaches with a casual stride, weapon raised. The warrior in grey continues to back away as he attempts to recover.

Now it’s the warrior in red’s turn to rush forward. Instead of ramming shields, he attacks with his morning star repeatedly. The warrior in grey blocks the attacks with his shield, but loses more and more ground as he maneuvers backward towards the wall. With each block the metal becomes increasingly more damaged, the dents compounding into craters. The warrior in red realizes that the warrior in grey hasn’t counterattacked yet and taunts him between strikes.

“You know…”


“If you don’t…”


“Attack me…”


“You’ll never win!”

His last statement is punctuated by a final, brutal overhead attack, which he throws his body into. One more powerful attack should be enough to punch right through the battered metal shield. Behind his armored red mask, the warrior smiles. 

The warrior in grey back steps sharply to the side, dodging the attack. The warrior in red's morning star connects ineffectively with the ground, kicking up a small explosion of dry dirt. No longer smiling, the warrior in red realizes his arm is extended, leaving the unprotected inside of his elbow exposed. Before he can react, the warrior in grey takes advantage of the opening, chopping with his axe. The blade easily bites into the warrior in red's arm, all but severing the appendage.

He screams in pain and anger. The warrior in grey follows up with a hard shove with his shield, causing the warrior in red to lose his footing completely. As he falls backward, the morning star flies from his hand. He crashes to the dirt on his back.

The warrior in red is stunned from the fall, the pain in his arm dominating his focus. He starts when the warrior in grey forcefully stomps his armored foot on the warrior in red’s shield, pinning it to the latter’s chest. He attempts to overpower the warrior in grey, groaning and grunting in agony and frustration, but eventually tires and lies still.

“I don’t want to die.” He moans pitiably between heavy breathes, his confidence completely gone.

“Remember," the warrior in grey responds sternly, "this isn't real."


“We’re in the Arena. This isn’t real.” He waits for his opponent to calm down. After what feels like an eternity, he continues.  "This isn't real, remember?" The confidence in his voice leaves no room for doubt.

The warrior in red lies very still, focusing away from the pain in his arm and instead on how he came do be here in the first place. Remembering the course of events that led to him laying pinned on the ground. Remembering the darkness before the fight and finally remembering what came before the darkness.


The pain quickly subsides with the memory. The warrior in red regains some of his vigor, snorting with a mix of amusement, arrogance, and disbelief. "Damn."

“Just making sure you understand.” The warrior in grey raises his axe high overhead before striking down with as much power as possible. The axe falls with an unwavering precision, passing right between the armored neck guard and helmet of its helpless target.

A girl sits alone in twilit darkness. Red light sneaks through cracks in the polarity screens of the room, barely illuminating the space in a molten glow. There is no furniture—the bed that the girl sits on is part of an alcove. The entire room is a sterile white, from the walls to the ceiling, even the sheets on the bed. There are no personal affects. No plants. No posters. No family photos.

The girl is intensely focused on a small holoscreen projected from a sleek device worn around her wrist, watching as the warrior in grey delivers the finishing blow. Once the axe is deeply buried in the warrior in red's neck, the two fighters instantly disappear. The view changes to a panning overhead shot of the now empty Arena. After a few moments, a graphic declaring the winner for the Duel is displayed over the shot of the stadium. 

As soon as she sees the name of the winner, the girl closes the window, replacing it quickly with a search page on the fighter database. She enters the name and instantly finds a matching profile, with updated statistics following the Duel.

She reads through the information, excitement and interest apparent in her crystal-blue eyes. She smiles triumphantly—this fighter was very interesting and not at all what she had been expecting. He could make for an excellent trump card.

After months of watching countless Duels and scouring the fighter database, she had stumbled on a hidden talent by pure chance. She wondered how she had never seen this boy fight before. Perhaps he didn’t want to be discovered? She would make sure to watch him at every opportunity going forward. 

The girl hoped that he continued to stay undiscovered. It would be a shame if someone else recruited him before she arrived on Arena Island this summer. Turning to a holobook resting on the bed next to her, she adds his name to a growing list:

Lance McCrum