The first week of the Great Race passed with ease. The only annoying part was having Exceed whine about the heat of the Caino desert and how he needed a drink. The man was a great help with a lot of things, but he was starting to become annoying.
“Glad that is over,” Exceed said as they walked out of sight of the Caino Desert, “Now to head toward Durnt City!” Murdos' son and head of the Race's planning staff, Gurneos, had informed the contestants of the path they needed to take. The race was a checkpoint style race: first team to reach all the checkpoints and ultimately the finish line, was declared the winner.
It was simple enough in description.
Unless, of course, you added that the contestants could fight and kill one another.
Rhazin shivered visibly. It was only halfway because of the thought of fighting other contestants. Leaving the desert had made the temperature in the air drop below what Rhazin had gotten used to. “Why are you so anxious to go to this city?” Exceed looked at him strangely.
“Don't you know anything about the Isles of Murdos?” Exceed asked, making Rhazin feel ignorant. He didn't like being ignorant.
“I know of Murdos City, the Great Race, and the basic geographical features,” Rhazin said, trying to sound smart, “but I didn't really care to read about the individual cities.” It was true. Rhazin tended to stick to the high points of a foreign land, not their minor towns and cities. It wasn't important, since his ultimate goal was domination of the world.
Rhazin froze midstep. Why had he thought that!? Was it the Darkness, again?
“What's wrong?” Exceed asked, his usual cheery demeanor turning into worry. He had been more wary since the events in the arena. Rhazin didn't blame him. Because of Rhazin, most of the contestants would be after them for revenge. Darana was, in fact, a very loved woman, due to her past acheivements.
“Nothing,” Rhazin replied after a monent. He clutched the cloth that wrapped his finger. It had been nearly a week and it still hurt, even after Exceed had healed it. “Just remembering the past.”
“You mean the arena?” He said, his weariness fading slightly, “or that survival from the serpent?”
Rhazin's head jerked up. “How did you..?”
Exceed laughed. “Word travels fast. Now, about your clothes...”
Rhazin started walking , ignoring Exceeds criticism about his brown cloak and green robes. They had been cheap and fit comfortably, unlike Exceeds blue and gold outfit with his house symbol sewn into it. The get up had cost nearly half as much as a horse. A horse! That was a small fortune.
“I won't change, even if you are buying,” Rhazin said, raking his pitch black hair black with his hand. He hated it when the wind made his hair go forward and he refused to wear a tie. He knew it was childish, but Rhazin didn't care.
“Fine, fine,” Exceed replied in a huff. The man would probably ask a few more times before nightfall.
Two days past with nearly the same routine. They weren't headed toward the town with the Sovereign of Plasma, to Rhazin's relief. Almost every town they had passed through knew of Rhazin almost killing Darana, the previous champion. Rhazin had to avoid using his name, though it was hard with Exceed yelling about who they were and what they accomplished. The man didn't seem too worried over anyone's opinion but his own. He was a true Frae, for better or worse.
“Ok,” Exceed said as the two walked through a field, “The first part of the Race is getting to the checkpoint in the next city, which just happens to be my territory.” The man smiled at that, a look of vicious longing coming into his eyes.
“What do you mean 'your territory?'” Rhazin asked, feeling a little worried. So far, Exceed had managed to drink in every bar they had come across and start at least one fight. Not to mention how many times the bar had been destroyed. It was a good thing that Exceed had deep pockets.
“It's called the City of Gambling around here,” Exceed said, causing Rhazin to gasp.
“Isn't gambling illegal?” Rhazin asked, worried that he would tarnish his name even more.
“Not in Murdos,” Exceep replied, smiling widely, “This isn't that desert pit of a kingdom we grew up in, Rhazin.”
Although Rhazin got slightly irritated at Exceed for dissing Faerein, the men's homeland, he held his tongue. No need to fight with his only ally. “So, why is gambling so fun?”
“You'll see,” was all Exceed said.