Entering the Great Race (Part 1)

 “He was a great man,” a familiar voice said behind Rhazin.

Rhazin turned to find Exceed standing and looking up at the statue of Jeroha. “Yeah, he is.”

Exceed looked at him funny, but didn't question him. Rhazin was relieved at that. He hated answering awkward questions.

“Come on, we have to talk,” Exceed said, turning to leave. He still wore his blue armor, so he was stared at when it clinked.

Rhazin followed behind the man. The two headed to the Marked Man, ignoring all the stares that followed after them. It dawned on Rhazin that he still wore the HighKing's insignia. Had that been the reason for all the staring?

'Oh well,' Rhazin thought to himself.

The two men stepped into the tavern and chose a private booth. The place was extremely well-managed and organized, just like every other place the Rhazin had seen in the Inner City.

“So,” Exceed said after they finished ordering drinks, “I hear you met the FirstBorn, Rhazin.”

“Yeah,” he replied, taking a sip of the dark brew. He hoped it didn't get him drunk. “She was everything I expected her to be and more.”

Exceed laughed. “Yeah, she is impressive, but she is the last of the Scarred Father's first born children, so its to be expected.”

“Yeah,” Rhazin said softly.

“What's wrong, friend?”

“I don't know, I guess I miss that kid.”

“What kid?” Exceed asked, taking a large swallow from his dark brew.

“Haha, just a girl I was taking care of,” Rhazin replied, setting his drink on the bar.

“Well, sorry to hear about your loss,” Exceed replied. He stopped the bartender, a short balding man, and asked for a refill.

“She didn't die,” Rhazin said laughing, “I just had to give her to a friend for when I join the Great Race.”

“Yeah, about that,” Exceed said suspiciously. The bartender looked at him angrily.

“You better not, Exceed!” he yelled. Too late.

Exceed threw his beverage into the back of a large man who looked to have been drinking too much. Before Rhazin could say anything, however, the man turned to see Exceed pointing at Rhazin.

“No, I di-” A force of Air shot Rhazin over the bar and into a shelf containing mugs. Glass shattered around him as Rhazin fell on the ground. Pain bloomed in his back and arse, though he had manaed to keep his head from hitting anything. Rhazin slowly got to his feet, realizing glass was lodged in his back.

“Come on!” Exceed yelled, “Fight back! I need a strong partner!”

Rhazin was annoyed and angry, a dangerous mix for him. Last time he had destroyed a house with Void and the Darkness had had nothing to do with it. This time, though, he would control himself and avoid using Void.

Rhazin climbed over the bar and faced the man who had shot him against the wall. The man just smiled, showing his crooked yellow teeth and assaulting Rhazin with bad breath. Rhazin smiled back and put one hand on the man's shirt.

“What are you...” A fire sprang to life on the man. Rhazin made sure it was small enough to not kill or endanger the man's life, but strong enough to burn him.

The man jumped back, allowing his buddies to charge Rhazin. Fear rose up in Rhazin, but he forced himself calm and sidestepped out of the way of a man's fist, before ducking under another punch. These men were serious, though Rhazin did not know why they just didn't use mystics to fight him.

Rhazin dodged and backed away from several more strikes before grabbing a stool. Using his Achemaic mystic, he altered the shape of the wood into a wooden glove. Rhazin turned just in time to duck beneath an angry man's fist. Right after he ducked, Rhazin swung his wooden hand into the mans gut, causing him to fall onto the ground.

“Who's next?” Rhazin was excited. For some reason this was fun. He could compete and beat this idiots, unlike when he had sparred with Monstroth and his master. He could actually win!

The other men all charged, angry at Rhazin, who had just knocked out one of their own.

Before they got to him, though, Exceed came out of nowhere and punched the largest man in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. Exceed took a punch in the side and another in the head, but swung back, ferociously. He took down one more of the men before being hit with a chair. Rhazin grabbed a stool and slammed it into the back of a man's head. When he fell, Rhazin grabbed Exceed and pulled him up.

“You're not bad,” he said, standing up. Rhazin punched another man in the face, knocking him out, before taking a punch to the gut. Pain from his back reignited and spread to meet the new pain in his stomach, making Rhazin feel like hurling.

“Well, you are!” Rhazin yelled at him. He straightened and blocked a punch from another man, then punched his attacker in his face with his wooden hand, cracking the attacker's nose. The man crumpled and another took his place. The whole bar had gotten into the fight started by Exceed, including the bartender. Luckily, the men were mostly to drunk to use mystics, so it was just fists and chairs that they hit each other with.

Exceed kicked a guy about to punch Rhazin and started punching at another man while Rhazin took a blow to the stomach. He quickly rolled away from the men and caught his breath. To his benefit, the fighters didn't notice him leave. Rhazin took deep breaths, allowing himself to recover from the blows he had taken, before jumping back into the frey.

The fight went on only a few more minutes, before guards called by the owner rushed in and broke it up. Rhazin didn't know why, but as the guards were pulling him off a man, he felt releived. It was as if all the tension he had had in the last week had been released in every punch he threw. After a minute, he even started laughing, causing the guardsmen to look at him strangely before throwing him out of the tavern.

Exceed and the large man he had threw his beverage at landed beside Rhazin. The seemed to be both angry at being thrown out, though the larger man seemed more angry at Exceed.

“Well that was fun,” Rhazin said to Exceed, surprised that he meant it. The other man looked at him with his swollen eye and puffed lip.

“Well, that escalated quickly,” he said. The other man stood and walked away in a huff, obviously not risking getting a fine for public fighting. “I think we won, at least.”

Rhazin laughed, feeling pain on his face for the first time. It didn't stop his laughing though. “But we took a beating, huh?”

Exceed smiled a little, then concentrated. His face slowly erased all the bruising. It was amazing, really. Rhazin had seen it plenty of times, but he was always amazed when someone did it. “At least now I look better than you.”

“Not fair!” Rhazin said, trying to concentrate. He had been told he might have the ability to use Plasma, but that only time would tell. After a minute, Rhazin felt a hand on his shoulder. His pain eased away and his face tingled, along with several other places on his body. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Exceed replied, pulling his hand away. Rhazin just sighed. He wished he could use the Plasma mystic. He might still be able to, yes, but he was impatient.

“So, where do we go?” Rhazin asked, standing up and stretching. His body felt rigid, but was otherwise fine. He had been expecting a little pain to be left. His master had done that every time he healed Rhazin. 'Pain makes the man,' he would say.

“We need to register and go through the semifinals first.” Exceed stood and stretched, copying Rhazin. “After we register, we can start our matches, if our opponents have registered as well, that is.”

Rhazin just nodded. He had heard about the semifinals. The actual racers had to beat the other contestants to decide on who would head out first. The champion would head out first, followed by the runner up a day later and so on. It was a system designed to break the weak willed.

“Wait,” Rhazin said, “How are they going to do it this year, with there being teams?” He had been pondering the team aspect that Murdos had added to the Race, but it had just hit him that partners might have to face each other.

“That's easy,” Exceed said as he started walking down the busy street, “We will be on teams. One team will fight another. When on person is defeated or gives up, that team is out.”

“Makes since, I suppose,” Rhazin muttered. He did not like having to rely on anyone. Not even Monstroth had been able to think otherwise.

The two men walked through the amazing city on their way to the registration building beside the arena. On the way, they saw more statues of Heroes. Rhazin had acted like a kid, begging Exceed to let him stay and look at the stonework for a moment, before heading on. Exceed seemed to find it funny, though he understood and claimed he was the same way when he was a kid.

Finally, they reached the building where registrations took place.

The building was packed, with a long line extending out into the street.

“What the...?” Rhazin said, not believing how many people were entering. He knew the race was a big event, the largest in the world, but he had no idea this many people wanted to risk their lives in it.

“Yeah,” Exceed said as they got in line, “I couldn't believe how many there were when I first came here either.” He laughed, causing some people to stare at him. It was odd how serious most the men and women in line looked.

The End

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