Authors: Dhayaa Anbajagane
A Quest Saga Novel
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Q faced the golden griffin floating in front of him, his face beaded with sweat. He gripped his double-edged sword with both hands, a line of neon red shining brightly on the nightmare-black blade. His body swayed into a low stance, his mind aware of everything around him.
The beast towered in front of him, its golden-brown feathers glistening in the warm light like a hundred little lamps. Its wings painted the air with their liquid movements, kicking up powerful torrents of wind that pushed him along the rough floor.
“Concentrate,” he muttered and calmed down, focusing his breathing into a steady flow of air. He needed a clear mind to get out of this one unscathed. His brain went into overdrive, analyzing every moment, every possibility.
The griffin eyed him carefully, like it was waiting for him to make a mistake. Q paced around it in a circle, his steps quiet and soft, hands firmly latched onto his sword, eyes fixed on his target. Even a moment’s distraction would let the beast gain an upper hand.
The griffin didn't seem to like all the silent waiting, and screeched at Q with a sharp, shrill pitch. Q didn't like waiting either. He shot forward from his crouched position, recoiling his muscles like a spring. His sword arm dropped to the side, his fingers curling around the weapon’s hilt, raring to strike. His legs ate up the distance between him and the griffin, his steps fast and light, his entire being eager to land a blow.
The griffin held its ground, its intimidating stare watching Q thunder down towards it, its body still as a rock. The beast’s steady presence dented Q’s confidence.
Am I making a mistake?
He cleared his mind, knowing he couldn't let the situation get to him. The griffin was probably playing around with his mind, enticing him to make the first mistake, but he wasn't going to give in to its plan. He hastened to a faster pace and brought his sword arm across his torso, ready to slash through the monstrous beast.
Griffins normally never show any facial emotions, but Q could swear this one was looking at him mockingly. The huge beast crouched, like it was ready to go for the kill, and its golden eyes were bloodshot with the same intent. It shot towards him with incredulous speed and in the blink of an eye, Q’s weapon was knocked free from his hands.
The black sword scraped against the ground, its sharp blade enveloped in a curtain of bright orange sparks. Q winced as he caught his wrist in pain.
Nearly snapped my arm off
, he thought.
The griffin took advantage of his distracted mind and pushed Q to the ground, its claws pressed against his chest, its sheer weight preventing him from moving. It threw its head up into the air and screeched fiercely; the victory cry of a griffin.
“C'mon, Ruby, that’s enough for today,” a girl walked over to Q.
The griffin obeyed her. It retracted its claws and walked away from him, each step showing serene grace and rugged pride.
“Hi Taylor,” Q grinned.
Taylor held her hand out and helped him to his feet, a warm smile on her face.
“What would you do without me?” she asked.
Q had known Taylor since he was little. As the younger one, he had been her sidekick for as long as he could remember. One look at the tomboyish, confident Taylor and he couldn’t believe she had been as girlish as one could be when she was little. Back then her mind had been filled with nothing but princesses and fairytales.
He reminisced of the time she wanted to grow out her golden hair like Rapunzel. She even tried getting contacts to turn her electric blue eyes into some complex shade Q couldn't seem to recollect. She had spent quite a while grooming her hair and making sure it remained razor straight. All that seemed like quite a waste when he looked at her now, her still-golden hair hanging in loose curls right above her shoulders.
Her frame was thin and frail, like that of a delicate girl, but what it didn’t reveal was that Taylor was well-trained in almost every form of martial arts. No matter how many times he tried, Q was never able warn her male admirers in time, so the result was always the same: they would treat her as the delicate flower she seemed to be and declare their undying will to protect her, and she would just knock them to the ground if they pestered her a little too much after she rejected them.
Q found it pretty ironic that after all those years of talking about true love and finding her perfect prince she rejected every single guy that came along. He never mentioned it to her though. He didn't have a death wish.
“Looks like you had a tough one,” Taylor said, a smile appearing on her pointed face.
“Yeah,” he shrugged.
You’re never going to beat me, you know that?
” The griffin said.
Yes, it talks.
In fact ‘it’ was a female. Her name was Ruby. She couldn't exactly talk in a conventional way, so instead she communicated with them telepathically. The problem with telepathic communication was that she could read your thoughts whenever she wanted to - not a comforting thought. Ruby did promise not to read their thoughts, but then again, there was no way they would be able to find out whether she actually adhered to it.
“You didn’t have to fight that seriously you know,” Taylor told Ruby.
Aw c’mon. A legendary beast gets bored once in a while
,” she said. “
I need a toy to play with
Taylor raised an eyebrow, “I’d gladly take you on in the arena the next time you get bored,” she smiled, this one much colder than the last.
Ruby stood still, and then backed off a few inches. She knew what a battle with Taylor would be like.
Q chuckled. Taylor was sixteen years old, a year older than he, so she had this, ‘I must protect him since he’s still a child’ attitude. Surprisingly though, this ideology seemed to vanish whenever she dealt with him for breaking the Academy’s rules. Q really did like having someone care for him but Taylor’s protectiveness went overboard at times.
Just last week she had gone into panic mode when she had thought he was choking, while in reality all he had done was cough. The day ended with him getting a scan to check his lungs. He wished she’d give it a break already. It wasn't like he was still a kid.
Oh, and Taylor is also a ‘Dark Knight’. No, she isn’t a female Batman, though that would have been really, really cool. The Dark Knights are an amazing legion of highly-skilled space mercenaries. That was pretty much all that Q knew about them. Taylor wasn't exactly very talkative when it came to her ‘mercenary’ life and he didn't ask her about it either.
“Just when do you plan on actually using your powers?” Ruby asked Q. “I’m tired of these physical bouts. A human could never beat a griffin with just a sword.”
“Give it a break, Ruby,” Taylor said. “The Academy banned him from using his powers without its consent, remember?”
“Can’t you just disobey that rule?” Ruby asked.
“Actually that’s a pretty good…” Q stopped mid-sentence. He could almost feel Taylor’s deathly stare piercing his soul.
“I’m sorry,” her voice went high, a smile on her face. “What was that Q?”
You know how when you get a chill, you feel a shiver down your spine? Well, when Taylor stares at you, you would probably feel like your spine ran away.
“Uhh..Nothing,” Q managed to say. “I’d better go to class,” he added, hoping that would get Taylor back into cheerful mode.
“Let’s go then,” her voice went back to normal and she led the way, her face still showing her wide smile, only now it wasn't the scary one. Her legs eased over the pathways like she was gliding, her fast paced steps racing away from him towards the classroom.
Q, on the other hand, walked slowly, his body exhausted from the battle he had just had with Ruby. He diverted his attention from his aching muscles and took in the sight around him. A huge transparent dome arched over them, towering over the hundreds of skyscrapers that littered the horizon. That was Aliea Academy’s dome; a transparent force field that kept them safe while generating an artificial atmosphere for them to breathe in. He had seen it hundreds of times and yet it amazed him at every single glance.
“Q, are you coming?” Taylor yelled out from a hundred yards ahead.
He trudged along to his classroom as fast as his fatigue allowed. The last thing he wanted was to have Taylor drag him there instead. He passed under a stone arch and into the academia grounds. Fresh lawns ran along either side, throwing the scent of grass into the air. He headed deeper in, noticing the bushes and trees that slowly replaced the bright green grass.
Soon he was at a circular building. Q felt a bit sad when he saw the building. He always imagined that the building’s architects tried to come up with the cool design. Yet, in the end, it looked like a pretty large piece of cake.
He walked through the automated doors and saw Juliana, their instructor, in the middle of teaching a class. Juliana was in her mid-thirties and had an extremely cheerful attitude for a person who was teaching at a military school. The classroom itself was more of a lecture hall really. It was structured as levels with each row of seats a step lower than the ones before it. They were all arranged in a semicircle facing the translucent hologram Juliana was using.
Q noticed Ruby standing next to Taylor a few steps down. Her eyes were scanning the entire classroom. Ever wonder how a huge griffin could enter such a tiny classroom? Ruby was able to fit because she’d returned to her ‘normal’ size, which was as large as a lion. Yes, griffins can change their size too. They can go from being as tall as a two story building to as small as an ant. The only problem is they could drain too much of their energy, or life energy, if they get too big or small.
“You’re finally here,” Juliana said, brushing her dark red hair off of her face. “Go take your seats.”
Q went ahead and took his seat in the empty row at the end of the class, and Taylor sat down in the seat right below him. Ruby sat herself down next to Taylor and seemed to be asleep, but Q was pretty sure she was just reading everyone’s mind.
“So how was the fight?” Another girl had come up and seated herself to his right.
It was Elizabeth, one of his close friends. She was the same age as Q, but going by mental age she was far younger. She was like a little princess, with her coffee brown hair and matching eyes. Her name sounded like that of royalty as well. She loved fooling about, sometimes even in the most serious of situations. Q loved her peppiness though, and he had to admit, spending time with her made him feel alive and energetic.
“Not bad,” Q said. “I’m tired of fighting Ruby all the time though.”
“Too many losses?” Elizabeth asked playfully.
“Why don't you try battling it out one-on-one with a griffin?” he grinned.
“I’ll think about it.”
Juliana clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. The whole class became silent, probably wondering what she had just done that for.
“Class, we have a new student who’s transferred just today,” Juliana announced. The lecture hall suddenly turned noisy.
“No, he is not a mage,” she said, and they hushed. The side door to the lecture hall slid open and a guy walked in.
He had bright green eyes that contrasted well with his wavy brown hair. His long face remained emotionless atop his broad shoulders. His tall frame seemed well-built and muscular, like that of a well-seasoned warrior, yet he had a certain sensitiveness around him as well. His eyes seemed to be calculating his surroundings every moment as he scanned the class, looking at every student like he was sizing them up. Q felt a shiver down his spine when he looked up at him with his ice-cold expression, as though he were exploring the depths of his mind.
“This is Levi,” Juliana said. “Please make him feel welcome.”
Everyone surrounded the new guy. The girls chatted with him right off the bat, while the guys looked like they were trying their best to get close to him. Q couldn't say he didn't expect that. The guy generated an aura of confidence all around him. He heard rings of ‘Welcome to Aliea Academy’ go around the group of cadets swarming about him.
Q wasn't exactly fond of the place, mainly because it had gotten him into major trouble more times than he could count, but well, it was home. Aliea Academy was a military training center, on the planet Zygrade, that focused on turning teenagers into cadets and preparing them to enroll in bigger organizations like the ‘Dark Knights’. Aliea’s ‘Military training center’ tag still sounded pretty unfounded, because in reality this place was just a special school for special kids.
And like all new recruits to Aliea, Levi was shooting out all sorts of questions to the class.
Q couldn't help smiling, remembering that he had been just as confused when
first reached this place. Luckily for him, Taylor had helped him see things a bit clearer. He could still remember word-for-word the first explanation she had given him.
There are two types of warriors at Aliea
, she had said.
The Warriors and the Mages. Every person has an inner force, a sort of energy reservoir inside their body. We call this our life energy. Our life energy levels are set when we’re born and they never really change after that. Warriors with low energy levels depend only on close combat and weaponry. But very rarely warriors come along with large enough life energy to control one particular spell type, or Elementa, such as wind or water. These warriors, called Mages, are basically warriors who have a very large reservoir of life energy. This energy lets them gain total control over at least two different Elementa. The Mage class though is very very rare.