chapter 3- trial of willpower
Julian clutched his head while his head swam. This was the sensation that he was expecting to receive after his first battle. A feeling that he was overwhelmed with dizziness while the textures and layout of the world around him changed. The sensation lasted for several moments before Julian returned to his senses, and when he did, Julian realized that he was no longer in the King's mausoleum, but a forest.
The trees grew several feet above Julian's head, their branches reached outward towards one another, leaving cracks of sunlight to shimmer through and bathe the forest floor in a pale light. Julian paused in surprise of this sudden change of scenery, seeing as how he had spent the last several hours in a dead castle that was cursed with a blanket of everlasting darkness, his eyes cried in resistance to this much brighter setting. Once they had adjusted themselves to the point that Julian was no longer squinting in agony at the sight of the forest, he set out to explore the area.
The forest was rather typical, lush plants had emerged from the ground, and wildlife was as plentiful in both numbers and diversity as Julian had expected. He had never been in a forest though, So Julian took this time to analyze as much about the terrain as he could. he first decided to do this when he remembered one of the most basic lessons when it comes to fighting in unfamiliar terrain.
"If you know more about what's around you then your foe, then the tides of victory will be tipped that much in your favor"
Even though he was trying to remain analytical, Julian had to pause in order to admire nature's true beauty. The massive trees, the smallest insects, and everything in between, they all blended together in a harmonious existence that made Julian feel alive and healthy for the first time in maybe his entire life.
However, his moment of spiritual bliss was cut short by a strange sounding voice behind him.
"You must be wondering why this place is the way it is, well... I shall teach you"
The voice came from behind him, so Julian turned around to see who had spoken. The being he saw was one of the strangest beings that he had seen in a very long time. He was wearing a white suit, and was playing with a golden ball that rested in his hand. He looked down at Julian, because he was currently resting on a nearby tree's branch as though it was a bed.
This being then stood up on the branch, and threw the ball down into the ground below him. As soon as the ball hit the ground, the tree that he was standing in began to sink into the ground. It was only a couple of seconds before the being stepped off of the branch onto the ground in front of it. He held out his hand as his ball returned to his hand, he then took a few more steps forward and smiled.
"You see, back when this world first became the home of living beings, the beings that lived here were the purist ideas of what should exist. These...Spirits... would stroll about this earth, dancing and singing, and just generally having a good time. Tragically, this magnificent party was cut short by a few hundred centuries when one of the spirits accidentally created this annoying little thing called gravity. Not prepared for this power, all the other spirits smashed BAM into the ground. Their energy then seeped into the earth as they died, and granted the world the trees, and the rocks and mountains... and just about everything else that this world has in it"
he paused to inhale
"So you see, the reason that this lovely forest is the way that it is, is because an idiot killed off his entire race... don't you feel good right now?"
By this point, Julian has stopped listening
"That has to be... the dumbest thing I've heard in my entire life"
The man in the suit gasped mockingly, clutching his heart
"Oh! I'm hurt, I'm hurt that... that you think I'm concerned about a mortal's opinion of me... epically one that's still a child by mortal standards"
This angered Julian, he took a step forward
"Okay, Just who are you?"
The strange man flailed his upper body, ending in a sarcastic bow
"I am what you would call a daemon of chaos... call me Bartalby"
Julian crossed his arms, annoyed by this being as he stood up straight again
"Fine, You can call me Julian... Julian Arrowind"
Bartalby simply shrugged at this, clutching the golden ball in his hand
"Whatever, so are you part of this tournament as well, Julian Arrowind?"
"Yeah, and that voice said that we're getting close to the end"
Julian's hands fell onto the handles of their respective blades as he continued
"So what do you say we get this over with?"
Bartalby rubbed his forehead at this, sighing heavily
"You still have so very much to learn though..."
He looked up after this, sticking out his upper lip and rolling up the sleeves of his suit
"Still... if it's a whoopin' you're a-wantin'... we can play your game first"
Bartalby stood up stiff and took the stance of a baseball pitcher. He winded up his arm and held the ball as though he was going to pitch a fast ball. Yet oddly, he gave his arm a full circle swing and tossed the ball underhanded at a nearby tree. Julian expected the ball to smash into the tree and fall to the ground, needless to say that he was stunned when the ball continued forward, and actually took the tree with it.
The tree began to change course and rocket towards Julian, who kicked out of the ground and forced himself out of the way. As he rolled across the ground and recovered, Julian realized that the ball was already back in Bartalby's hand.
Julian barely had time to gather his wits before Bartalby tossed his ball as though he was bowling, and as soon as the ball met the ground, it began to rend the earth around it, forming a massive shock wave of rock that roared towards Julian. He rolled out of harm's way for a second time, however, this time he fell onto his side instead of recovering.
Julian rose his head, he saw the golden ball swiftly float back towards Bartalby, and a basic idea formed in his head. All he had to do was strike while the ball was out of his hand, and the Bartalby was over!
Julian's mind fished and swam for various schemes on how to part Bartalby from that golden ball of his. Something that he had already established in his mind as hard to do. Regardless, he knew that he had to s=come up with something, or his time in the tournament was up. At this moment Julian was returning to his feet, and at the same time he heard a light smack as the golden ball loyally returned to the hand of it's master.
Julian began to back away, are relied on his training for when dealing with an obviously superior foe.
"At times, a tactical retreat and a plan will guide you to victory"
It's helped in the past, and Julian's hope was that it would help now. He shot one last look at Bartalby before he spun himself around and rushed into the forest. For a brief few moments, he could hear Bartalby yelling after him.
"What? Are we done playing your game already?"
After ducking under and dodging around seemingly endless trees, Julian slid to a stop and hid himself behind one of the thickest trees that he could find. He then used a relaxation technique to calm his breathing, and began to think of a plan
"All I know is that his ball is his primary weapon... and there's no promise that getting rid of it will leave him totally defenseless, in fact-"
Julian fell forward and pressed himself against the ground as the tree that he was hiding behind exploded into thousands of tiny splinters, he rose to his knees and looked over to see that Bartalby had violently transformed the once tree filled area into a clearing in the middle of the forest.
"Ah, I had feeling that you were somewhere around here"
He slowly began to step towards Julian, bouncing his ball on the ground as he walked
"Now, shall we begin your tutoring?"
"Tutoring? what are you-"
Bartalby threw his ball into the ground at Julian's feet, and before he could respons, his feet sunk into the earth as though it was quicksand. It stopped with his feet being buried just above the ankles. Bartalby stood back, as his ball returned to his hand.
"You see, Julian Arrowind, while I was looking for you, I realized that I had heard you name before"
He bounded the ball up and down on the ground, keeping his distance from Julian.
"you are the son of two supposedly Talented fighters, and your whole life revolves around surpassing them, proving to the world that you're some kind of hero... or something like that"
He grabbed the ball again, this time however, he clutched it in his hand, not bouncing it any more.
"So today I am going to teach you exactly how pointless things like ambition and goals are when compared to the never ending passage of time"
Bartalby began to laugh
"What's the matter? Are you already realizing how pointless these mortal dreams of yours will be thousands of years from now? When the grandchilden of the grandchildren of the people who you hope to impress are dieing of old age?"
Julian's head snapped up
"That's not the poi-"
Bartalby threw his ball into the earth at Julian's feet again, and the ground suddenly closed on his feet, clamping down on them and causing a great deal of pain before they backed off. Julian cried out in pain, kneeling while Bartalby laughs in glee
"Tisk tisk, you see Julian, every time that you deny how pointless your goals are... the ground is going to give you a little hug"
Julian began to pant heavily, not responding as he tried to pull his feet out of the ground. As expected, the earth wasn't budging. He stood back up straight as Bartalby began to speak again.
"Now I have a question for you, how important are your dreams of becoming a hero... How important will you be millions of years from now? when this planet never even exists any more"
Julian lowered his head... this lunatic had a point... At some point, rather that time was before he died, or hundreds of years later, people would stop telling tales of his deeds. Someday, the name Julian Arrowind would not be remembered. This realization crushed Julian under a thousand tun weight as he stared blankly at the ground.
"I... I don't know"
Bartalby tossed the ball gently at the ground where the earth binded Julian again, and caused it to close in on him again, this time it caused even more pain.
"Wrong! I think you do know! You do know that your whole reason for getting up in the morning is utterly pointless!"
These words continued to weigh on Julian, causing him more distress as he come into the realization that this lunatic was speaking about. While still standing up, Julian became lost in his mind. He could feel himself fall into an infinite darkness that Bartalby had created, a darkness that represented Julian's spirits at the moment. Bartalby's words affected him far more then they had at first. Julian came to think about the pointlessness of mortal beings as a whole, how he was nothing more than a single mortal being that would eventually be forgotten and lost to the endless river of time.
Julian was a single mortal, a being that nothing more than a nameless face to most of his fellow beings. He was just a single blade of grass on the lawn of the universe
"Yet... without a million of those blades of grass... without billions of those single mortals, there would be no humans period... It is because there are so many of us that we are so special"
This thought, this single thought, opened the floodgates as Julian's spirit rose, as he began to regain his ambition and will to live. He realized that he didn't want to fight for fame and glory anymore, Bartalby had killed that part of him forever. What Julian Arrowind wanted to fight for now, was to make the human world a better place, to help others.
And so Julian returned to his dilemma with Bartalby and his dark questions. He could win this fight, he would win this fight. He could hear Bartalby asking his bothersome question again, as he had just gotten done with some sort of insane rant about mortality and mindless drivel like that.
"So? What do you think of these ambitions of yours?"
Julian lowered his head, a small grin crept across his face as he answered
Bartalby leaned forward with a laugh, pressing his palm against his ear
"Oh!? What did you just say? Did somebody just submit to the truth?"
"It's pointless... how many times you ask this question, because you are never going to get me to believe that I mean nothing!
Bartalby sighed in annoyance
"And here I thought that we were making progress, shame"
He threw the ball again, but this time, Julian drew one of his blades and smashed the little golden ball into the ground. The ground where Julian had hit the ball to squirmed a little and settled, and now Julian had control of the ball.
Julian used his blade to bring the ball towards him, not risking either letting go of the ball nor touching it. He had gotten that thing away from Bartalby, and he was not going to give it back. At the sight of this event, Bartalby let out a distressed cry
"Hey! you give that back!"
Julian laughed as he kept the ball nearby with his blade.
"You want it..."
He drew his other blade and pointed it at Bartalby
"Come and get it!"
Bartalby let out another annoyed cry before he sat down indian style, facing Julian
"Fine! so it's a stalemate!"
Julian's heart sank when he heard those words, Bartalby was right, Neither of them could do anything to hurt the other. Julan's feet were stuck in the ground and Bartalby's ball was in the hands of his foe, it was a total Stalemate.
Seconds passed like hours, and minutes passed like days as the two combatants stood there, Neither being able to end the battle for the other. Julian's legs began to get sore from their position, and he noticed that Bartalby was getting sort of fidgety after what seemed like forever.
"I'm so bored!"
Julian raised his eyebrow, but he suddenly came to realize that Bartalby had introduced himself as a chaos daemon when the two met. And they were currently in a forest, the most calm and tranquil of areas that one could imagine being in. With just that thought, Julian realized that he could end the stalemate with him having victory.
Julian's patience began to wane, but he got entertainment from watching Bartalby writhe around in the frustration of not being able to break something. The Chaos daemon was now pacing back and forth, occasionally glaring over at Julian, and the blade that held his ball back, he had the appearance of a frustrated house cat, looking at a toy that was just barely out of reach.
While Bartalby was storming around in frustration, Julian took his second blade and began to cut into the ground, all he had to do was carve the ground around him just enough to free his feet... he paused as he heard a yell come from Bartalby, and looked up in time to see him fall unto the ground, slamming his feet and hands into the ground like a toddler that just got grounded. He then continued his work.
He looked down to see that he had cut a small circle around one of his feet, all he had to do was pull up his right leg and it would come up from the ground, taking some of the ground with it. As he began to work on the second leg, he realized that Bartalby was now getting to his feet and turning to face Julian.
"Alright, here's the deal, you give me the ball back and I'll just let you out of the ground, then we'll-"
He looked down at Julian's feet, and saw that he was cutting his way free.
"Well aren't you a clever one... I think I'm in trouble"
By now, his second leg was free
On the word "Kidding", Julian burst from the ground he quickly rushed at Bartalby, ignoring the pain in his feet from Bartalby's lesson, and slammed the blunt side of one of his blades into the side of Bartalby's neck.
Bartalby got to his feet quickly and yelled out to Julian, who was starting a second attack
"Alright! You win! I forfeit!"
Julian suddenly stops, surprised
"You... you what?"
Bartalby starts to laugh as he brushes the dust off of his suit and rubs his neck
"I'm robbing you of the satisfaction of defeating me the proper way"
Julian lets out an annoyed yell as he hears a massive voice in the sky confirm Bartalby's withdrawal.
Julian turns around, no longer facing Bartalby
"You know... I honestly don't care if nobody remembers my name anymore, thanks for setting me straight"
He begins to walk away, he laughs lightly as he hears Bartalby yell out after him
"Oh that's not even right Julian Arrowind! Now who's the bastard!"
Julian left the scene behind, looking forward to finishing the final battle, as well as ending this whole damn tournament.
Bartalby rested a hand on his ball, sighing to himself
"It's a shame you weren't born as one of my kind... you would realize exactly how stupid you are..."
He looked over, content that he had broken at least one last rule before his time at the tournament came to an end, that unspoken rule that you don't simply give up for the sake of spiting your foe.
"Well... that was fun, what next I wonder?"
Only time would tell...