Chapter twenty two
Jason stood outside the guild meeting place. It didn’t look like much, more like the fighting arena in the architectural style, but in a slight ruin manner. He rocked on the balls of his feet and waited for Rapid to appear from within. Wings had explained to him that she would only be testing him on one of the subjects. Rapid would test him on another and the two other most senior members would cover the last two. The order that they were to be performed in were: Hand fighting, Agility, Sword Fighting, and The Mind Challenge.
Jason sighed and leaned against the only tree next to the building, a young Silver maple tree fighting the cold and snow stubbornly with its deep red leaves and crusty brown bark. He was gazing up through the branches when he heard someone clear their throat and he looked down to see Wings, Rapid, a stocky human character with light straw blonde hair cut short and pale skin belonging to a man, and behind all three of them, Raven, her eyes downcast and her posture in a tortured kind of stance.
“Alright, you ready?” Wings asked Jason kindly and he nodded. She smiled and her, the blonde man, and raven, let Rapid step forward with a long sword, which he held the point out to Jason.
“Avenged_Thief, do you accept the rules and responsibilities of the guild?” He said in a formal, more than likely official, voice to Jason, who replied.
“Do you request affiliation within the guild?” rapid went on and Jason again replied.
“Then you must complete the next four challenges. Remove all your weapons please.” He commanded. Jason did so and set his knapsack, cloak, dagger, and long sword against the base of the tree. He stepped forward a little more than a step. Rapid nodded with approval.
“The first challenge is hand to hand combat. Wings-of-Eagles will be your opponent. Wings-of-Eagles, please step forward.” Wings stepped forward and winked at Jason and mouthed ‘good luck’ before twisting her body into a fighting stance with her fists held upright and her face transformed into the steel mask of a fighter.
Rapid moved back to give them room and Jason moved into his own fighting stance. Rapid paused for a heartbeat, then gave the command.
Wings launched out with a high karate kick at Jason, who barely ducked in time. Wings spun around with the force of her kick and Jason took advantage of her momentary distraction. He rushed up close to her, and when she finished her awkward spin he launched out with a punch at her face.
His fist hit it is mark against her nose. He laughed in satisfaction and retreated his fist, trying to convince himself that although it was wings, he was doing her no real harm, and plus he was required to do this. He still felt bad about it though. That went away quickly though when Wings launched her own punch at him and it caught him unexpectedly on the side of the head. The force of the blow nearly knocked him over, and as he struggled to stand up, Wings grabbed a hold of his throat in a half nelson.
The crook of her arm tightened against Jason’s throat, and he scrabbled at her arm, thinking quickly of how to react. He kicked back at her feet, and she gasped in surprise and let go of him as she tripped on the ground. Jason spun around and grabbed then front of her tunic and threw her against the lone tree.
Wings yelped loudly and Jason could visibly see the pain that arched through her back when she hit the trunk. Her posture wilted slightly and Jason advanced on her and kneed her in the stomach.
With rage noticeable in her eyes, she caught Jason’s next blow to the face and gripped his hand firmly. He winced as her nails dug into the skin of his knuckle, and he tried to shake her off, but only succeeded in letting her twist his arm hard behind his back. He gasped in pain and shook her violently, but this time she didn’t let go.
Tripping over his own discarded gear, Jason fell to the icy and snowy ground and pain knifed up his shoulder blade as he landed. The only good thing about his trip was that Wings let go of him as she fell with him. Jason rolled over and grabbed her ankle with the arm that was not injured and kept her from crawling away or standing up.
Wings wriggled and kicked at Jason, but missed his face by a hair, and Jason pulled her back closer to her. She narrowed her eyes at him and he pinned her ankle down as he pushed himself up. Jason got ready kick her hard when Rapid suddenly appeared and put his hand on Jason’s shoulder.
“Enough! Wings-of-Eagles, do you approve of this match? Has Avenged_Thief successfully completed the first challenge?” Rapid said and looked at Wings.
Wings took a moment to stand up and wince as her body ached with bruises and pain. “Yes.” She finally gasped out and nodded to Jason and Rapid. “I am satisfied.” Rapid smiled briefly and looked back to Jason.
“Very well. I hereby award you with a full energy, health, and stamina refill along with two hundred flechs.” Jason sighed in relief as he felt his pain flow from his body and strength return to his body. Wings likewise sighed and Jason guessed that she was also given a refill on all her meters. Rapid nodded at Jason and whispered softly. “Good Job Thief.” Before turning around to face Raven and the blonde man.
“The second challenge will be agility; raven-goes mad will be your opponent. raven-goes-mad, please step forward.” Rapid commanded, and Raven stepped forward to face Jason. He smiled an offering at her, but her eyes just pierced through him and his smile slowly faded as Rapid continued. “raven-goes-mad, will you please begin.”
Raven nodded only the slightest and spoke with direct certainty it sounded almost robotic. “Agility is the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina. To test your agility, we will begin using the tree behind you.” She nodded to the Silver maple behind him, and as Jason turned around, he saw the tree expand until it was incredulously high. He sucked in a breath and raven continued.
“You and I will race to the top of the tree, climbing, swinging, and combining many methods of agility to reach the upper most branches first. When we reach the pinnacle, we will attempt to knock one another off the tree’s branches. If you are still in balance at the end, then you will have passed this test.” Jason looked back and nodded.
“Okay.” He said and Raven slid her steely gaze to Rapid.
“Will you give the signal?” She asked and rapid nodded. Raven turned back around and motioned for Jason to approach the tree. He did so and waited at the base of the now enormous tree, and as he stood next to Raven, he wondered how he would be able to reach the top. Balance was the key thing here, and it made Jason reflect back on his earlier assumption of raven. If she truly was Cassidy Bree, then she would be very good at climbing trees.
“Begin!” Rapid Commanded and Jason reached upward for one of the lower branches. He looked over and Raven had already pulled herself up and was kicking against the tree trunk to propel herself upward. Jason groaned as he realized that he was already behind and moved swiftly to yank himself up on the branch.
The limb moved under his weight ad he waited a moment to steady himself before jumping to the next one. The leave rattled with the wind and Jason looked up to see how Raven was dealing. She was at least five feet higher than him, and Jason watched where she moved and how she moved, then copied her moves, and found her way of swinging and using continuing motion must quicker and easier than what he had been doing.
Soon, while combing her and his own methods, Jason and raven were battling for the limited amount of branches nearing the top. Jason smiled at raven, who glared past him and continued to work without returning his smile. Jason sighed again at her stubbornness, and pulled himself onto the next branch and had to stop himself from tripping over as he realized he was at the top.
Raven jumped up across from him and turned around and bowed slightly to him. “Good, you have made it up here faster than I, Now I will test your balance and reflexes by trying to knock you off. Ready, set..” She paused and Jason steadied himself on the branch and glanced down to check his feet to make sure he had movement room, when Raven’s hand whacked him in the side. “Go!” She shouted and dashed backward as Jason wobbled dangerously on the edge.
Raven narrowed her eyes as she watched him and she snarled slightly. “Always be prepared, your enemy will play dirty and attack without warning.” Jason kept his footing and watched her closely. This time he detected the slightest budge in her posture, and found that he could feel the displacement of weight on the branch, and jumped to the left to a separate limb when she kicked out at him.
Her foot sailed through the air and Jason saw as Raven fumbled slightly. But regained her balance and took advantage of her stumble to grip her hands on a skinny limb above her and swing herself around until she faced Jason again, a few branches over.
“Good.” She said, “But never get too proud.” She instructed and suddenly jumped down on her branch. The force of her weight made Jason’s limb shake, and he crouched down to grip it and prevent himself from toppling over.
While he had been distracted, Raven moved silently to his branch and attempted to shake him off. Jason expected this, and when she took her first step on the limb, he let go and rolled off, only to let his feet hit against the tree trunk, which he abruptly kicked against and swing with one arm on the branch with raven to one a foot or so higher. He crouched and aimed a punch at her shoulder.
Raven looked genuinely surprised at his expectation and combined tactics. Enough so that she failed to regain her footing and slipped off the slip tree bark. She fell suddenly with a scream of terror and surprise.
The scream sounded so familiar it brought back agonizing memories of when Cassidy Bree had fallen out of the tree during that storm the first time, that Jason called out to Raven and moved swiftly through the branches to reach her.
“Cassidy Bree!” He hollered and managed to reach a branch below her and caught Raven as she fell. Jason held her arm and raven gasped in pain and surprise while Jason pulled her up and helped her sit on a rather sturdy crook between the tree trunk and a thick branch close to the bottom.
Raven huddled up close and had her eyes closed while she panted out of fear. After a moment of Jason watching her, she exhaled slowly and opened her eyes to face him. “Thank you.” She said softly and gently, as if she were thinking about something. She cleared her throat and spoke louder after that. “You have passed.”
With that Raven and Jason were both suddenly standing on the ground next to Rapid, Wings, and the blonde guy. Jason looked around and saw that the large silver maple now looked like a young flimsy tree again. He turned back to Rapid when he spoke.
“raven-goes-mad, has Avenged_Thief completed this challenge?” He said to raven. She nodded. And Rapid continued. “Very well. I hereby award both of you with a full energy, health, and stamina refill along with three hundred fifty two flechs.”
Jason took a moment to let his body grow comfortable with the new energy and stamina. If he had successfully completed the hand to hand combat and agility challenges, that left the sword fighting and the mind challenge. He looked from Rapid to the Blonde man, wondering which would do which. His question was quickly answered when Rapid began the next commands.
“The third challenge is hand to hand combat. MechaKnight34 will be your opponent. MechaKnight34, please step forward.” The blonde man Stepped forward, a sleek elven sword much like wings’ had been brandished in his hand. He handed Jason his sword and nodded politely. Jason felt instant fondness to the blonde man, whom Rapid had identified as MechaKnight34.
MechaKnight34, or Knight as Jason saw inscribed on the sword’s blade near the hilt, moved into the standard fighting position of any sword master and Jason sighed before spreading his legs apart and twisting his torso into his much preferred and modified version of the stance. It fit his body type much more nicely; as Jason had discovered while fighting in the arena. Jason tilted his head back and gripped the hilt of his weapon just behind his right ear. He leveled his eyes with Knight and waited for the command.