Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 3: Wildfire

I’ve hired a group of hunters to track down Subject Zero. I hate working with Werewolves, but there’s a reason they are regarded as the best trackers in the universe ... plus, their unique DNA sequences are on my list of viable donors for the experiment.

A round of wildfire was a phrase used by Fire Elementals to refer to general sparring among squad mates. In order to fight as an effective team, it was generally agreed that teammates needed to know all the ins and outs of their companions and their overall strengths and weaknesses. Wildfire, though, was a little more intensive as it required each combatant to spar with each member of their team in quick succession. The winner of the match was determined by whoever landed the first blow. Regardless of who won or lost, the combatants would immediately move on to the next partner and begin a new match. The battles would go on until each member had fought one of their teammates at least once. That meant at least five rounds of battle for Ryan when he already felt tired and sore. Torsha, being an envoy from the Monastery, was not allowed to participate.

Over the past few weeks, Ryan had become very acquainted with wildfire rounds and had come to know the strengths of his teammates relative to his own. After spending some time evaluating his friends, he came to realize that he had greater reserves of psions than all of them, but that still hardly made him the best fighter. As best as he could figure, Grafael and Leon were still a tad better than he was due to their greater experience.

However, Grafael would never be the most powerful fighter as he still refrained from using his Earth Elemency unless absolutely necessary. Ryan kept telling him that he needed to get more experience with his element, but Grafael was too frightened of the Berserker State. He said that he wanted to give Éclair time to understand what she did to heal him before he risked using Elemency too much which could possibly lead to another transformation. As such, Grafael would only use Earth Elemency during private sparring lessons with Ryan, which gave both of them much-needed practice. When it came to battles with their elements alone, Ryan was actually much better than Grafael and enjoyed lording that fact over him. In terms of raw strength and speed, Ryan was nearly Grafael’s equal at this point and could hold his own using only Vok’Gar, the Saurian martial art of hand-to-hand combat. Only Grafael’s extensive battle experience kept Ryan from winning a decisive victory as the two sparred with one another in their free time.

As for the others, that was a little more complicated. Ryan hadn’t sparred as much with Torsha since she had ceased being his instructor. When they did fight, there seemed to be a silent understanding between them that Ryan had grown beyond her ability to teach him anything. The two regarded each other as peers now, and Torsha seemed fine with that. The Werewolf was always so easygoing, a breath of fresh air on a team where most everyone took themselves way too seriously.

Tork was a different story altogether. Though Tork was hardly a slouch in combat, Ryan only came to realize that the Dragon never fought seriously, not for one single sparring match. Because of this, Tork had the lowest standing among the group in terms of fighting ability. However, Ryan got the feeling that if Tork ever got serious, he’d be stronger than all of them. There was something holding the Space Dragon back, something inside him that wouldn’t let him put his all into battle. Ryan got the sense that Tork simply hated fighting, which begged the question of why he joined the Ministry of Fire to begin with. He had tried asking Tork about it a few times, but the Dragon clammed up every time, his countenance seeming ashamed.

Rachel was a little simpler. She and Leon had the most experience working together as Elementals. She wasn’t quite as strong as Leon or Éclair, but she was clever ... and more importantly, sneaky. In a straight-up fight, Ryan could probably take her every time, but her invisibility skills and penchant for surprise attacks always kept him on his toes when he fought her. Plus, she’d learned a few new tricks with her Spiritual abilities since becoming a Third. Ryan suspected she was taking private lessons with Eramar in her free time. He just hoped she wouldn’t figure out how to teleport. Rachel’s mischievous tendencies were a match for Ryan’s at times, and there were a number of mean little tricks she could pull on him if she learned how to teleport as good as Eramar did.

That left Leon and Éclair. Leon was the undisputed ringleader of the Grim Team, there was no question about that. The number of tricks and skills he knew with Telepathy and Wind Elemency were staggering, and he just kept getting better and better with each passing day. There was something driving Leon on to improve his skills. Perhaps something as powerful as Ryan’s own need for revenge. Whatever the case, Ryan had once held aspirations of surpassing Leon in strength one day. But since discovering that Leon possessed Shadow Elemency, he could no longer simply think of the Lurranna as another friendly rival. That and the other thing that Leon had made it very difficult to view their differences as simply comradely competition. And the thing that Leon had was Éclair.

Though she was one of the more inexperienced members like Ryan, she had risen among the ranks to nearly be Leon’s equal. Whenever they sparred, Leon only beat her half the time, and Éclair tied with him more often than not, even winning occasionally. Though she didn’t possess Leon’s or Grafael’s raw power, the sheer amount of her psions was overwhelming. Éclair could endure a prolonged battle with energy to spare almost as long as Ryan himself could. But most amazing was her fluidity and grace when she fought. She made something ugly like battle look as elegant as a dance. Truthfully though, Ryan still couldn’t be sure of the limits of Éclair’s strength. He only fought her seriously once, a sparring match during the Second Level Exams he was pretty sure he would’ve won eventually, but not all that easily. Since then, whenever they sparred, he wasn’t able to arouse much enthusiasm when fighting her, and she beat him every time. It only added to her preconceptions of him being like a little brother to her, and increased his own frustrations with their relationship. But he couldn’t let himself get swept up in his emotions with Éclair again ... not since that one time that he...

They were pairing off now. Ryan focused his thoughts on the task at hand. Torsha took a seat on the floor in the corner of the metal chamber, crossing her legs and cheering Tork on. There would be three battles happening simultaneously. Ryan was matched up with Grafael, Rachel with Tork, and Éclair with Leon. Another trick of wildfire was keeping the battles self-contained enough so as not to interfere with the other matches. If interference did occur, it would mean an automatic forfeit for the offending party. That meant that the combatants would have to avoid flashy moves, and they also couldn’t jump around too much to avoid getting hit. In this case, blocking was preferable to dodging, an exercise that taught one resilience and grit in the face of adversity. The members of Squad 99 all lined up and faced each other; Leon, Grafael, and Rachel on one side, Ryan, Éclair, and Tork on the other

“Alright,” Leon said as he squared off with Éclair, raising his swords. “Grafael, Rachel, and I will start off as the floor masters. The rotation will occur at our three positions.”

The term ‘floor master’ simply referred to the area of the matches. If Leon, Rachel, or Grafael won their respective matches, then they would stay put as the losers switched partners. In the case of a tie, both combatants would rotate out so as to face a different opponent for each match.

Grafael grinned expectantly, raising his hammer. Ryan returned the grin. Tired or not, a good fight with his Saurian brother was always enjoyable. And then they began. Ryan tried not to pay much attention to the other fights as he focused on countering Grafael’s heavy hammer. That was another test of wildfire, keeping one’s attention on one’s own individual battle despite several occurring at once.

Grafael swung his mighty hammer with both hands, and Ryan matched him blow for blow. Ryan was taller now, tall as Eramar, but Grafael still towered over him at over eight feet. Even with Grafael’s huge reptilian bulk, Ryan still dueled the Saurian without backing up a single step. Grafael’s grin grew all the wider as he increased the speed and strength of his swings. Ryan responded in kind, gripping his sword with two hands as both combatants swung at each other like a couple of deranged lumberjacks.

This was much a game for both of them, one that they had played often enough. Ryan and Grafael always set an extra condition on themselves for matches such as this. The one who stepped back first would be considered the loser; but with their Dragon blood aroused to a boil, neither one would even dream of backing down. Though Grafael’s weapon was not psionic, being specially crafted by Saurians with chromovite steel endowed it with enough durability to stand up against even Ryan’s fiery blade. The clang of their weapons was tremendous, clapping like thunderstrikes and throwing up strong gusts of wind from the power of their blows. Both Grafael and Ryan were a blur of motion now, their weapons zipping so fast that not even Ryan could see every blow. And throughout the entire exchange, neither fighter moved a single step.

Grafael was laughing madly now, his Saurian battle lust sated with the thrills he always craved. Ryan was quite enjoying himself as well, so much so that he completely forgot all about his fatigue and his wounds at Eramar’s hands. He would’ve liked to stay like that with Grafael all day, but then out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Éclair.

She fought with Leon only a few meters away from his own battle with Grafael. She was in fine form as always, weaving past Leon’s swings and twirling like a dancer. She used her bladed bow like a staff, given that she couldn’t get enough distance between her and Leon to pull back her bowstring. Éclair’s blue glowing bow flashed beautifully as it clashed with Leon’s purple glowing dual swords. Then Éclair put on an unexpected burst of motion, striking at Leon with her fists and her armored legs. Her style reminded Ryan of Grafael’s techniques, but it wasn’t quite Vok’Gar. Leon blocked every blow before striking with both blades. Éclair twisted under Leon’s swing, bringing up her staff with both hands. It seemed like she was going to land a decisive hit. But just before she did, Leon somehow moved quicker than even Grafael could when he used his psions to increase his speed. Leon tilted his head back, avoiding Éclair’s bow while slamming her in the gut at the same time with both swords. And that’s when Grafael hit Ryan in the face with his hammer.

Ryan’s world spun. It took him a moment to come to. Even with the dampening field surrounding their bodies to prevent fatal injury, Ryan felt like he’d just been hit by ... well, by a Saurian.

As Ryan lay on his back, he, unfortunately, regained enough cognition to hear Grafael cry out triumphantly, “Big Hammer wins again!”

Ryan groggily watched as Grafael raised his hammer above his head. He noticed Rachel doing much the same victory dance over a beaten Tork who lay sprawling on the floor. Torsha booed her in the background, giving a thumbs-down. Then Ryan turned his attention back to Éclair.

If Leon hurt her, I swear I’ll...

But she was fine. Leon was already bringing Éclair to her feet. Ryan heard him whisper in Éclair’s ear, “You did well.”

Éclair smiled and blushed slightly as Leon kissed the back of her hand.

In that moment, Ryan wanted nothing more than to...

Grafael scooped Ryan up by his armpits and hoisted him to his feet, “So tell me, little brother. Do you think your sword is that big now?”

“Nigshawa,” Ryan slurred. Translation: You know exactly what you’re doing when you say stuff like that, don’t you?!

Grafael laughed as he put Ryan in a headlock and gave him a noogie. “Ah, you humans and your little swords. But it was a good fight all the same. Not your best, but certainly not your worst.”

“Finyagweecamoz,” Ryan replied, still a little punch-drunk. No translation.

“Hey, I don’t use swords,” Rachel said indignantly as she walked away from the recovering Tork.

“Oh, yes,” Grafael conceded. “Your ... uh ... sticks on a string thing.”

“These are nun-chucks,” Rachel said proudly as she swung the weapon from hand to hand, the chains crackling with lightning as she did so. “They are a highly versatile weapon that only the most exceptional of warriors can master.”

She looked so weird saying that stuff that Ryan said in his slurred voice, “Geembonogo.” Translation: You know you’ll never get a boyfriend, right?

Ryan had to wait a little bit to recover as the matches continued. He sat in a corner with Torsha while leaning against the wall. She kept cheering Tork on despite him losing every match. First against Grafael, then against Leon, and finally against Éclair. He gave a decent effort as far as Ryan could tell. He blocked their attacks with his shield, made purposeful strikes with his baton-shaped sword, and occasionally sent a few fireballs their way from his mouth. But there was just ... just something keeping Tork from being a real threat. He seemed to lack confidence and never went for a killing blow. He mostly just flew around and avoided direct fighting until he was finally cornered and knocked to the ground.

The other matchups were pretty much as Ryan expected they would go. When Grafael fought Éclair, she managed to fight him to a draw as both stopped their weapons at each other’s heads in the same instant. They smiled at each other, stepped back, and bowed at the same time. When Rachel fought Grafael, she used her disappearing act to try and sneak a hit in. Grafael closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then swung his hammer directly behind him, stopping it in mid-swing. Rachel appeared underneath the giant hammer a second later looking up at the Saurian, and appearing absolutely terrified as her jaw hung open.

Leon and Grafael’s fight was a bit more interesting. Leon didn’t quite match Grafael’s immense strength, but he more than made up for that gap with speed. As far as Ryan could tell, Leon somehow used the wind itself to increase his physical attributes, allowing him to keep up with Grafael despite the Saurian being much physically faster. No matter how swift Grafael’s swings were, Leon was just too nimble for him. The fight ended with Leon disarming the Saurian and then tripping him to the ground by slashing his legs. Grafael hit the ground hard, making a huge dent in the floor. At the very least, Leon seemed winded as his breathing became very heavy. Their match had lasted much longer than the others, and no doubt Leon felt the backlash of a battle of endurance with a Saurian. Grafael came to his feet growling slightly. Then he smiled and gave Leon a respectful nod. The nod was returned.

As much as Ryan enjoyed Grafael and Leon’s match, he had to admit that he preferred watching Éclair’s duels, and not just because she was hot as heck when she fought. Okay, maybe it was just because she was hot as heck. Though he had been preoccupied at the time, he could tell that she only barely lost her fight with Leon. She had a good battle with Tork as well, taking him out midflight with an ice arrow that chased after him as he flew around the chamber. And her duel with Grafael was equally magnificent. She was careful to not outright match Grafael’s blows, but to dance around them, using her slim size to her advantage. The fact that Grafael could keep up with her the way he did despite his size was a testament to his merits as a warrior.

And then Éclair fought Rachel. The young Third didn’t resort to using her invisibility, probably because it would’ve been useless given Éclair’s sensory abilities. Instead, Rachel fought the Second head-on. Her glowing yellow chained weapon met with Éclair’s blue glowing bladed bow. Rachel was almost as graceful as Éclair as the two swirled and flew through the air, trading blows on the ground and while jumping as high as twenty feet off the floor. Leon and Grafael had their fight at the same time, so that left little room for the girls to maneuver, but somehow they managed. The fight ended with Éclair disarming Rachel and then slamming the end of her bow into her opponent’s chest. Rachel was knocked to the ground, the slight shimmer of the dampening field fazing momentarily around her body, shielding her from fatal injury. Rachel took the loss in stride, her bearing seemed frustrated but satisfied as she let Éclair help her to her feet. Ryan noted that the stepsisters’ relationship had improved dramatically in recent weeks.

After Éclair finished up her match with Rachel, Leon defeated Grafael a little while later. Then Leon and Rachel had a singular match against one another. It lasted a good deal longer than Ryan would’ve thought. Rachel knew Leon’s tactics really well, and it showed as she predicted his movements beat for beat. When it seemed clear Leon couldn’t get a hit on her with his swords, he resorted to Elemency, throwing up a gust of wind in every direction by slashing opposite directions with his blades. Rachel was a second too late as she fired a bolt of lightning from her own weapon as she fell. She actually managed to hit Leon in the arm, but was knocked to the ground herself. It wasn’t technically a tie as everyone saw Leon’s wind hit her first, but the fact that she still managed to hit him surprised Ryan. Leon shook his arm to test for movement. He didn’t appear injured as his arm had been well protected behind the dampening field and his own Psionic Armor. Leon then helped Rachel to her feet. She grinned mischievously as she drew close and massaged his plated chest.

“What a gentleman?” she said coyly, throwing a glance towards Éclair.

Éclair sniffed and shook her head, but gave a small grin. Since Éclair had started dating Leon, Rachel’s blatant flirtations were taken as a weird joke between them at this point. Ryan would’ve liked to mess with them like that as well, but he still felt too sore about losing out to Leon.

Ryan grew tired of waiting and watching, forcing himself to his feet. Éclair looked to him anxiously, but Ryan waved her concerns away with his hand as he went to the center of the chamber, summoning his sword and clawed gauntlet.

“Alright, I kinda lost track of who I’m up against next. That tends to happen when you get hit in the face by a giant hammer.”

“Big hammer!” boomed the Saurian proudly.

Éclair giggled a little as she stood between Grafael and Leon. She and the other members of Squad 99 waited with Torsha in the corner.

Rachel then shrugged and approached Ryan, swinging her nunchuks perilously close around her head without paying much attention. Rachel then raised her nunchuks above her head in both hands.

“Feel the wrath of the chucks!” Rachel yelled proudly as she faced him.

Ryan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at such a display. “Has anyone told you that you’ve gotten weirder?”

“Has anyone told you that your face has gotten dumber?”

“Hey!” exclaimed a perturbed Ryan. “I make the face jokes! That’s copyright infringement!”

Ryan opened up with a lava swing of his sword, hoping to take Rachel by surprise with an unfamiliar element. She was surprised at first, but not enough as she jumped past the lava and fired a barrage of lightning at him with her nunchuks. Ryan caught every bolt with his sword, and then dashed forward too quickly for Rachel to get any more shots in. He ran right through his own lava to reach her faster. Since the magma was created by his own psions, it wouldn’t hurt him unless his psionic control was exceptionally low. Rachel only barely managed to catch his sword with her chains, and even then she was pushed back by Ryan’s superior strength.

The source of this story is Finestories

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