16.2: Behind the Motel

“Your parents were enthralled by cryptic messages?” Solana squinted in confusion.

“I don’t think so.” I read the note again, “What could it possibly mean?”

“Check the rest of the case. Maybe they left some more clues. Who knows? There might be an explanation of the note.”

I rummaged through the rest of the case. Nothing. Nothing besides heaps of dust and loose change.

My hand firmly clutched the note. I was agitated, both at my parents for being so cryptic, and at myself for not understanding their message. On the other hand, I felt a bit at ease. My parents were out there somewhere; I wasn’t just hunting ghosts.

“Come on, we need to get back to the castle. It’s getting late, and you know what happens when you’re in the twilight for too long,” Solana urged me away from the case.

Now that Solana broke the lock, I was able to open and close it at will. I decided to stash it in my backpack and bring it back to the castle.

“Yeah, I’m ready. Let’s get out of this dump,” I tailed Solana, who was already halfway out of the door.

Solana and I descended the stairs as quickly as when we arrived. In a way, I was a bit relieved to return to the castle. The dilapidated motel stained my outlook on the rest of Timorba. Everything in the city was extravagant, but the Dianoche was rustic and falling apart. My parents were never really strapped for money; it boggled me that they chose this to be their accommodations in Timorba.

I sighed aloud, and Solana turned to me, “Tired?”

“Exhausted, or at least, my head is. This lifestyle is overwhelming.”

Solana snickered, “Well, you better adjust for tomorrow. Don’t think I’m going easy on you because of your family issues. Without rigorous training, you can kiss your parents goodbye.”

I rolled my eyes, “Yeah, yeah. I know the drill.”

As we walked through the parking lot, Solana and I began to hear muffled sounds from behind us. Voices, and I could barely make them out. Only the slight interjections were audible: Yeah! and Go!

We turned around almost immediately, our gaze falling upon the decrepit Dianoche. Not a single soul in sight.

“Are they behind the motel?” I asked Solana.

“Yeah, there’s a huge crowd in the back.”

“How do you know that? We can’t even see them.”

Solana smiled, “Essence is a powerful technique, Elijah. Let’s go see what it’s about.”

Curiosity snatched the reins and the two of us darted around the building. Solana was right; a large horde of people formed a circle in a small lot that sat behind the Dianoche. Fists rose into the air, and their shouts seemed more like cheers.

I decided to squeeze through the crowd, bumping into men and women of varying sizes. All of them cheered for whatever spectacle was happening in the center.

As I approached the inner ring, I saw a man, standing triumphantly within the limited space. One of his knees was bent, but he was still stood upright. I looked down to see what he stood on, and it forced me to hold my breath in terror.

He stood on another man, battered bloody and near death.

Before I knew it, someone thrusted me towards the man, and the platform he rested his foot upon. People began chanting, “A challenger! A challenger!”

This was a fighting circle, and I just became the newest challenger.

The End

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