Chapter 38: Elite Airhead
Genakex carefully stepped toward the edge and looked down. Many miles below, the sea smashed against the side of the island again and again. Feeling a bit dizzy, he stepped back.
Calling Le-Isle an island was a bit of a stretch; it was more like a mountain reaching up out of the ocean. The bridges from Ko-Isle and to Ga-Isle both connected to its base and were linked by a dirt road. The road also led to a path carved into the mountain that spiraled up to its top, the only safe way to reach or leave the city.
Currently, Genakex and his companions were very close to the top, so the thought of falling made him nervous. Very, very nervous.
“Don’t look down,” Tahra teased as she passed by. “They say it’s the easiest way to lose your footing.”
Genakex shuddered and hurried up the path. A few minutes later the group finally reached the vast, grassy plateau atop the mountain. Several windmills served as gates celebrating their arrival, and a city full of tall buildings could be seen in the distance.
With a sigh of relief, Genakex muttered, “Glad that’s over…”
As they came closer to the city, however, something caught his eye. About a mile away from the city was a castle perched right on the edge of the plateau. It was a three-story structure that covered a wide tract of land, built with gray stone that was clearly old yet in surprisingly good condition. Sectioning off the cliff that the castle was situated upon was a low wall (more for show than anything else) which sported a black barred gate, tentatively forbidding access to the winding path that led up to the castle’s large double doors. The outer walls of the castle itself were topped with bronze ornaments shaped like eagles, which were spaced evenly across its length and seemed to keep a constant watch over the property.
The most noticeable aspect of this castle, however, were the seven silver spires that rose up from the castle’s outer walls and formed a circle around a lone, looming tower that shot up from the center of the building. Keeping in mind the elevation of Le-Isle, building spires that seem to reach father towards the sky was odd in a way, and even stranger, the tower reached higher than that. The tower had a conical roof and one wide window that faced the gates of the property—but this portal was covered from within by a dusty white curtain.
“What’s with the castle?” Genakex wondered aloud.
“It’s the last Lekin castle,” Kytan explained. "When Le-Isle was first colonized, the people built a series of castles right on the edges of the plateau. They say it was some sort of attempt to prove their courage—that they were in no way afraid of making the sky their home. It was an ill-fated attempt.”
“The ledges all gave way,” Tahra clarified. “A heck of a way to go, tumbling down a sky-high mountain in a crumbling castle. Once they realized it was a bad idea, though, they cleared out, so there weren’t too many casualties.”
“Wow…” Phaenyx said. A smile crossed his face. “So I guess they were—“
“No,” Tahra interrupted.
“I will beat you.”
Tahra hit Phaenyx over the head. “People died! Don’t make puns about that!”
Zane stayed a dozen steps or so behind the others rubbing his temples. There was a reason why he preferred to avoid other people: they were always so noisy. This particular group, he had discovered, was quite prone to breaking out into loud fights.
The minutes seemed to drag on until they made it to the city. Every green-bricked building could be considered a tower, and at the center of it all was the Battlefield, its polished metal walls rising at least thirty stories if not more. Above the automatic sliding door was the symbol for Air: three wavy green lines resting right next to each other.
The first floor was nothing but an empty lobby, and Stratoro ushered everyone into one of the several elevators that lined the room. The lift delivered them to the roof, where two men stood on the far side of an arena. One was an older man with a head of whitish gray hair, wearing dark green robes and thick glasses. The other was in his late teens and almost entirely green: green hair, green eyes, green pants with white stripes on the sides, a dark green t-shirt, and a light green jacket.
Once the children were out and the men had acknowledged their existence, the Ice-Lord closed the doors of the elevator and left without a word. The older man sneered, “Isn’t that just like Stratoro…”
Tahra smiled and called, “You’re still here, old man? Don’t you know your prime ended long ago?”
The old man grinned in reply. “Well, I was going to wait to retire until you became Fire-Lord, but since that’s never going to happen I decided to have Leanga here get ready to take over.”
The younger man spoke up, “You must be Tahra. Master has told me a lot about you.”
“It’s probably all lies,” Tahra joked. Turning to her friends, she introduced, “Guys, this is Nidovikk, the Fourth Air-Lord. He’s a nosy, obnoxious snob who doesn’t know when to quit.”
“Oh hush you overzealous brat,” Nidovikk replied. “For you information, I plan on retiring in a few days’ time.”
“I never thought I’d see the day! About time we gave your job to someone new.”
Nidovikk moved forward as if angry, but then stopped and pulled Tahra in for a hug. “It’s good to see you again, Tahra. How’s your father looking?”
“Steadily improving. He told me to give you an extra punch from him.”
“Haha! I’ll have to pay him a visit once Leanga becomes Air-Lord, then. A few good whacks should knock the sick right out of him. But, for now, we have some business to attend to, eh?”
Nidovikk set his hand on Tahra’s shoulder and looked up at the other children. “There are rooms on floors 11-22, take whichever ones you want. I can only take a couple battles a day anymore, but once Leanga takes over that won’t be an issue. Floor 10 has the island’s Orb Center and Healing Shop, in case you can’t find them. As for keeping you safe, well, the easiest way to do that would be if you stayed inside the Battlefield, but I know that’s probably not gonna happen! Just be sure you tell either me or Leanga where you’re going so we’ll be able to keep track of you all. The Consortium’s been kinda quiet around here, though…that may not be a good thing…eh? Oh, right, that’s it. I think that’s it, at least…who wants an Orb Battle?”
Kytan couldn’t help but wonder if Nidovikk was becoming a bit senile. He said nothing, however, so Zane raised his hand and took a step forward.
Nidovikk squinted his eyes and examined Zane. “Hm, you seem frustrated. Looking to vent your anger in a fight?”
“…I’m ‘looking’ to get my Air Ultima-Orb,” Zane replied.
With a shrug, Nidovikk replied, “Eh, sure. Clear the field, everyone! Battle time!”
Once the arena was clear Nidovikk fused with Jobmaster: Wind. A blue tunic appeared on his torso and gold plates formed over his shoulders. Zane fused with Tridenroid, becoming encased in incredibly thick blue armor edged with sharp ice spikes.
“Ah, that one’s gonna be hard to break,” Nidovikk muttered. “Let’s see, which should I give up…”
The Air-Lord activated his effect and discarded his sword, gaining three gold stars above his head and an evasion boost. Zane attacked while he was off-guard, however, launching a Spike made of ice through the air and landing a hit.
“Ow!” Nidovikk remarked. “That hurt! You should be more careful!”
“…It’s a battle,” Zane stated.
Zane prepared to attack again, but Nidovikk cast Black Magic to send a blast of fire at Zane. Nidovikk laughed until he realized that Zane had taken cover under his Shell, which had deployed into a dome around him. Zane threw a Chrono Spike and Nidovikk easily dodged, but then the projectile returned back along its flight path and hit Nidovikk in the back of the head.
“Now that’s just not fair!” Nidovikk complained. “Okay then: Blue Magic!”
Using the technique to access Tridenroid’s attacks, Nidovikk activated Time Slow to phenomenally reduce Zane’s movement speed. The Air-Lord ran in and delivered a Power Punch to his slow opponent, but Zane’s Thick Shell effect nullified the damage.
“…Right,” Nidovikk grumbled.
Zane attacked with Chrono Spike. “Are you really the Air-Lord?”
“What? Of course I am!” Nidovikk was hit twice by the ice spike, leaving him with relatively low energy.
The Air-Lord muttered something, but then he used Focus to power up before blasting Zane with Thunder Element Black Magic. Nidovikk also tried using Aeroga to sweep Zane into a small tornado, but the challenger ducked beneath his Shell and held on.
Time Slow finally wore off, so Nidovikk jumped back and readied for another Spike. Nidovikk braced for Zane’s next attack, ready for another Spike. When Zane attacked, however, it was with a swarm of floating, crab-shaped Mini-Clones. Nidovikk wove around the invaders and still managed to fully avoid the next Chrono Spike. He was so impressed with himself, however, that he was blindsided by a normal Spike. Nidovikk faced Zane and used Counter, sidestepping his attack and delivering a solid kick, but the attack bounced off of Zane’s Thick Shell and Nidovikk was knocked out of Fusion by Mini-Clones.
“Confound it!” Nidovikk grumbled. “Well, moving on…Fusion, Agility of Wind!” His robes turned purple with some green remaining on his chest and arms, and a wooden staff materialized in his hand.
On the sidelines, Kytan leaned towards Tahra. “I have a question. Has Nidovikk always been this…”
“Scatterbrained?” Tahra finished. “According to my dad, yes. But you shouldn’t take it easy on him just because he acts that way.”
“So it’s just a strategy?”
“Honestly, the world may never know.”
Nidovikk was about to cast Bind when Zane activated Time Slow. With the attack he intended to disable already in effect, Nidovikk’s technique missed, and he was hit in the face with a Chrono Spike. At his next chance Nidovikk used Bind on Chrono Spike instead, though Zane was able to hit him with a regular Spike while he was open. Slamming his staff down, Nidovikk used Ward to defend himself, and then he cast Mars Charge and shrugged off a weakened Spike.
As Time Slow wore off, Nidovikk threatened, “I’m serious now!”
He dodged a Spike and launched a Plasma blast at Zane, causing a burn to appear on Tridenroid’s shell. Zane ignored the pain and tried to retaliate, but Nidovikk avoided him and landed another Plasma attack.
“Now the tables are turned!” Nidovikk shouted. “…Well…kind of.”
Both combatants missed with their next attacks, and the effects of Mars Charge faded away. Nidovikk stopped in order to cast Venus Charge but only succeeded in getting stunned by one of Zane’s Spikes. The burn finished off Tridenroid, so Zane fused with XPlode to gain red armor covered in clusters of spikes.
“Drat…I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t have any more Spirits prepared,” Nidovikk admitted.
“…And you really thought I wouldn’t?” Zane asked. “I’m Level 4—why would I not have more?”
“Well excuse me! I was just—“
Zane cut Nidovikk off by Shoulder Ramming him out of Fusion.
“Wha…DISGRACE!” Nidovikk yelled. “How rude—I was still talking!”
“From what I’ve seen, you’re always talking.”
Nidovikk’s jaw dropped. “Why you…fine then! Fusion, Wind Storm!”
Plates of green and white armor covered Nidovikk, and two fins sporting blue spears protruded from his back. A two gunmetal claws extended from his right wrist, and he held a thin cannon that connected to his back with a blue tube. His left hand was replaced with a white shield sporting vicious claws, with a blue Hero Core on this weapon and a red Core on his chest. White armor covered his head and slid over his face, and a small screen flipped over his eye.
“…Why do all of his Spirits have ‘Wind’ in their names?” Kytan asked.
“He probably doesn’t even realize that,” Tahra answered.
Nidovikk raised his cannon and fired a blast of ice, but Zane slid out of the way and launched spikes from his shoulders. Dashing in, the Air-Lord avoided all damage and coated his left claw in light energy so that he could slash Zane with Hero Claw.
Temporarily blind, Zane asked, “You know you were just poisoned by my effect, right?”
“Yeah, but it was bound to happen sooner or later,” Nidovikk sighed. “Also, that attack is the one that does the most damage to you. So, you know…Storm!”
Powerful winds buffeted Zane, disorienting him and lowering his accuracy. He swung his sword, missed by a mile, and was sent sprawling by another Hero Claw.
This is an annoying battle, Zane fumed. Still, all I need to do is outlast him. That shouldn’t be too hard.
Zane used his Minion technique to summon a Rotor Spirit to the arena as a distraction. Nidovikk took the bait, pointing the spears on his back forward and charging into the creature. The Blizzard Tackle paralyzed Rotor, so Nidovikk used Skydive to leap into the air and come crashing back down to wipe out its energy and send it away from the battle.
“Poor summoned units,” Nidovikk lamented. “It’s not their fight, but they always pay the price.”
Since Nidovikk was still clearly distracted, Zane decided to run in and use Shoulder Ram. He was successful, though Nidovikk recovered quickly and batted him away with Hero Claw.
“Right, battle, sorry,” Nidovikk apologized.
Zane tried using a Projectile Rain to keep the Air-Lord at bay, but Nidovikk made it through the attack and hit Zane again. Knowing another hit was coming, Zane blindly jumped away, narrowly avoiding Nidovikk. There wasn’t enough distance to protect him from the next Hero Claw, but this time Zane was able to retaliate with an attack from his sword.
“Darn,” Nidovikk said. “Let’s see…with our current Fusion Energy, I won’t be able to do enough damage before the poison gets me. Too bad, I was really hoping to impress everyone with a win…”
He paused to de-fuse. “Okay, I’ll guess I’ll just forfeit. But, uh…I may have left the Ultima-Orbs in my office…so…wait here!”
Nidovikk quickly got into the elevator. Under his breath, Zane muttered, “What a fool…”
“Hey, calm down,” Tahra said. “He may seem a little crazy, but he’s a nice guy.”
“Whatever,” Zane dismissed. “I just hope he hurries up.”
“Why? Big plans?”
Zane de-fused but gave no answer. Soon Nidovikk re-emerged from the elevator holding a bag of Widgets and a solid green Air Ultima-Ord.
“Here…you…are…” he panted. “Con…congratu…Kongu…I need a minute…”
“Ah…thanks,” Zane said as he took his rewards.
Tahra said, “Man, Nidovikk, your age must really be getting to you if that’s all it takes to wear you out.”
“Getting…old…ain’t…fun…” Nidovikk huffed. “Hoo…okay…that’s enough excitement for one day. I need to go lie down. More Orb Battles tomorrow!”
Leanga came over to help Nidovikk back into the elevator. Kytan got up and said, “I don’t think I’ll be comfortable fighting someone so…frail.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Tahra said. “But if it makes you feel better, how about you and I fight a Tag Match? You can focus on Leanga while I deal with the old man.”
Kytan suddenly felt nervous. “Tag Match? Uh…y-yeah, that sounds nice. Let’s do that!”
Tahra blinked. “You’ve been acting weird lately. Are you focused enough to go discuss strategy, or should I come back later?”
“No, I’m fine—let’s go!”
Genakex watched the two depart and scratched his head. “What’s up with niisan?”
Phaenyx mumbled, “Hm...something about his behavior seems familiar. Where have I seen this before…”
Genakex turned to Xyla, who was staring blankly at the ground. Phaenyx shrugged and walked off.
“Y…You alright?” Genakex asked.
Xyla looked up at him for a second before looking back down. “…During the blizzard,” she said, “I spent all my free time practicing with Air Spirits. I felt like I was really making progress, and maybe I really could be a master like I hoped. But now that I’ve seen the Air-Lord fight…”
She trailed off and shook her head.
Genakex asked, “After that battle? I’m not really one to talk, but Nidovikk didn’t seem like he had it all together.”
Xyla glared at him. “Don’t you get it? He’s the Air-Lord. That means he is officially the strongest Air specialist in the entire world. How am I supposed to beat him with his own Element?!”
“Well…I don’t know. But I know you can find a way! And even if you don’t win, well…no one can blame you. Not a whole lot of people can best a master, but just trying proves you’re dedicated.”
“I’m really not that dedicated, though, am I? I gave up before…why should I even try again?”
It took Genakex a little longer to think of a response to this. “Well…maybe you need to. Maybe you’ll do better than you expect and it’ll give you the confidence to commit to your dream again.”
Xyla gave him a surprised look. “…I don’t always do so well with expectations.”
“Hey, it’s your decision. But take it from me: surprising yourself is a really good feeling you can’t get anywhere else.”
Xyla looked at him for a moment. “You’re speaking from what experience exactly?”
Genakex grinned. “You weren’t the only one training. I’ve made a lot of progress with Titan! I’m just about ready to use his Awakening!”
“That’s not the best example.”
Genakex frowned. “…Then…that only strengthens my argument! If it’s a good feeling to surprise yourself in small ways, then surprising yourself in a big way must be fantastic!”
Xyla, shockingly, could not argue with that—it actually made some sense to her. She stood up and simply said, “I’ll think about it.”
Once she was gone, Genakex crossed his arms and nodded. “I think that went well.”
#1216. Jobmaster: Wind
#1438. Agility of Wind
#1178. Wind Storm
Review in Genakex's Journal.