Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
Looking for Authors for Exclusive positions! Paid. DM the Admin on Discord if you're interested. LINK
The crowd separated from the open space in the centre, in a circle. Their chatter lulled to a dull silence when Laella and Daiden approached from opposite ends, towards each other, and with opposing expressions. Daiden continued to stretch through the walk, a little tense from the attention around him. He admired Laella’s calm given the situation, her smile as well. He stared a little even, only to hurriedly shake away from the thought with a loud and nervous gulp.
“Ah, yes,” remembered Daiden. “I’m still a boy…wait, am I a boy or a man?”
With clenched fists and a stronger resolve, Daiden raised his head, but succumbed once more to the charms of the person in front of him. He sighed in that moment.
“I might as well get it out of my system,” whispered Daiden, under his breath. “I should have spent less time training as a gymnast and more time socialising. This is, this is just embarrassing…”
Daiden slowly observed it then, all of what made him nervous. Surrounded mostly by men at first, the sight of a woman with dark, ambitious eyes, sparked admiration. He noticed more. The thick, auburn hair, in waves, an attractive face with a sharp nose and full lips, and arms as delicate as they were strong – trained to hide the callouses, trained to hide the history of effort and pain. Daiden felt his heart thump against his chest, more so given the aura of Laella’s dedication despite her familial wealth and influence. She reminded him of a wizard almost, with soft red robes, colourless bangles and a red hat.
“Good, good,” thought Daiden, impatiently. “Take it out of your system. It’s infatuation. You need to strike at her and retain your rank…I can’t afford to lose a hundred bloodstones!”
Daiden spiralled with his thoughts but reeled at the strike of a slap against his back. He winced and turned to find Rollo, as usual, with a smile.
“You don’t look like someone ready for battle,” said Rollo. “What’s holding up your attention?”
“Would you laugh if I said Laella?” whispered Daiden, shyly. “It’s nothing serious. I just don’t know if I can have a push to the brink battle with her.”
“Oh, but you must!” said Rollo, scratching his chin. “Remember that we’re here to support each other. Don’t let something as simple as a pretty woman distract you from that. You understand? She’s an Amell, a fellow trainee, and you don’t know much else about her. She’s not your friend.
“Don’t waste any emotion on someone you don’t know the first thing about!”
Daiden felt a lump in his throat. He meekly nodded. “I…I understand, I’m sorry.”
For a moment, Rollo gazed at his friend with a firm expression. His face distorted then, into half-smiles and frenzied laughter soon after. He clutched his stomach, bent over, with tears in his eyes, and continued to laugh. Daiden shielded Rollo from the eyes of the other trainees and slowly raised him by the arm.
“We’ve talked about this, Rollo,” said Daiden, with an exasperated sigh. “Your humour, it’s starting to weird people out. Try moderation, please?”
“Yes, yes,” said Rollo, easing to a state of calm. “I’m sorry. But that look of disappointment on your face, that, that was just priceless.”
“What do you mean?” asked Daiden, with a frown.
“Listen, I will never doubt our friendship,” said Rollo, gently. “But the truth is, she’s an Amell. They don’t value noble bloodlines or etiquette; they only speak the language of strength. They would marry a beggar into the family if it meant improving the strength and quality of their heirs.
“And besides, I’ve even heard rumours of their attempt at inter-racial marriages, different species. If you want to make an impression, crush Laella to the ground without a shred of mercy.”
At the recommendation, Daiden laughed out loud as well. He rubbed his eyes and smiled. “Thanks, Rollo. I appreciate your elaborate gesture.”
“Anything to help, my friend.”
“Honestly, it’s more butterflies in my stomach than anything,” revealed Daiden. “I haven’t participated in something as relevant as this in a long time. It weighs on you, I guess…and the infatuation, well, that was just a distraction.”
“You worry too much, always!” said Rollo, shaking his head.
“So I’ve heard,” said Daiden, with a laugh.
“I didn’t think he would be this ordinary.”
Laella concluded this at the sight of Daiden. She studied the little things – his gait, his reaction to her appearance, and then the manner of his conversation with Rollo. As an Amell, she wasn’t unfamiliar with attention, but she didn’t once expect it from a fellow High Ranker. Her confidence stemmed mostly from their six months in training, in the identification of something incongruent with Daiden. She noticed parts that resembled determination, camaraderie even, and equal parts of anxiety and insecurity. It showed in his interactions as well, a wall against easy friendships, offering little to the world outside his sphere of influence.
“He’s comfortable with the two people around him…he isn’t arrogant with the others, perhaps shy?” observed Laella, with her eyes narrowed to slits. “But again, that would make him so ordinary. Is he really the grandson of the Lord of Fire?”
Laella burrowed deeper into thought. She isolated from everything around her, in hums and with strange expressions. But as she stewed further into thought, she felt something – a tap, on her shoulder. It startled her into a soft gasp, forcing her to cover her mouth as an immediate reaction. Her eyes trembled around the corners, first with surprise and then with frustration, with Rollo in front of her.
“Does he have no manners?!” fumed Laella. She stared a moment longer and then sighed, slumping her shoulders in resignation. Aloud, she said, “Well met, Rollo.”
“Well met, Laella,” said Rollo, cheerily. “As the officiator, I just wanted to make sure you were ready. Daiden’s all set on his end. How about you?”
“We’re good to go, all good,” said Laella, affirmatively, with another sigh. “It would be better to hold off on forming impressions until after our match.”
“Let’s get started, then!” said Rollo, with a smile.