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Art dodged a slow downward slash from his newest project - Marx. The boy had it all, to be honest, and that was boring. The only real thing he lacked was practice. Fine tuning, in other words. He knew the rhythms of the battle and could dance to it's tune, but he was still stumbling on his own feet at times. 

Artonus grabbed Marx's sword arm by the wrist and threw the lad over his shoulder, enhancing the move with his levitation. A grunt escaped the boy as his body dug into the ground. Bah, no fun. At this point he was just a sparring partner, not a teacher. 

"You have the ability, boy," Art told him, deciding a little pep talk would do him good after hours of beatings, "You just have to learn to put everything together better without losing your cool."

Marx groaned as he stood and nodded. "That's the first nice thing you've said all day."

"Don't take it to your head," Art snapped, turning to see Grimlock walk into the large clearing. The woman - her name was Elise apparently - started to salute him, but was put at ease by a wave of hand. "Grimlock! A word?"

Marx looked toward Grimlock, then back to Art. "Break time?"

"Not in the least." Art lunged and found himself surprised as Marx managed a dodge. The boy even managed an attack that wasn't slow. Art dodged himself and kicked Marx in the sternum, sending him flying via levitation's added force. 

"What do you need, Art?" Well, MASTER Grimlock was in a foul mood, but... Art wasn't in the greatest mood either. A few of those guild members announced dead weren't unknown to him... Nightwing. What was their goal in attacking? It was interesting, but Art knew he was more interested in revenge for his mentor, Juxon.

"The Transferixion Link?"

Grimlock eyes widened slightly in acknowledgement. "Ahh, yes."

Marx attacked, managing to slice Art's shirt once more and nearly draw blood, but Art moved and attempted to trip the boy. Marx adjusted to it, of course, and rolled over his senior's foot and struck out with his blade. The boy deserved some credit for adapting this fast, so Art swung his blade down hard, nearly knocking the boy's own free of his grip, then kicked his face. 

"I don't know how they got one, since they are in the developmental stage," Art said, backing away from Marx. He was dangerous, if manageable. "But it was designed to transfer magic from youngsters who had too much and give it to a more experienced mage temporarily."

"So, sort of like Blackthorn's magic, except even more temporary."

Art parried a strike from Marx and dodged around in an attempt to slice the boy's back. He blocked, if barely and they continued a dance of blades. "And whoever took it doesn't have access to Marx's magic, per say, unless they already had some sort of affinity for it or some other device I don't know about... Or..."

"Or?" Grimlock seemed curious.

"Just a hypothesis, but a blood relative of Marx might be able to use the magic quite easily." Marx hesitated in one of his attacks and Art took the opening. The boy was sent to the ground by Art's fist. "Don't lose focus, boy!"

"Why not let me show him how to fight?" 

Art turned to Grimlock. "You know I can't beat you with your damned magic." 

His old friend laughed. "No magic for me," he said, literally looking down on Art. Giant bastard. "But you can use it to your heart's content. I've trained since you've left."

A bark of laughter escaped Art. "Alright, then. Watch us, boy." 

Marx smiled defiantly. "Well, I do wanna see this. Might be refreshing to see either of you lose for a change."

"How about a bet?" Grimlock asked. "For old time's sake, of course."

"I bet I'll be able to land the first hit," Art challenged. 

"You're on. The usual?"

"Drinks for a week on you."

"Done."

Grimlock wasn't wearing his armor, but his imposing eight foot tall figure was all he needed to fight. He drew the massive blades - katana and wakizashi, was it? - he carried and assumed some sort of stance Art had never learned the name for. Art, in turn, grabbed his spears made from diamond from the edge of the clearing and switched them with his practice sword. 

"Watch, Marx," Grimlock bellowed in his deep voice, "I'll show you how to beat this bald man."

"Trying to taunt already, scarface?"

Grimlock answered by lunging forward with a low - well, low for a giant - stance. Art reacted by jumping to the side and stabbing toward the guild master with a diamond spear. The larger man swatted it to the side with his shorter blade, then moved to jab with his longer one. Not pulling punches, huh, old friend?

Art pumped some magic into the spears he still held and formed a shield to redirect the attack. The impact knocked Art easily to the side, forcing him to roll to keep his bones from breaking. No rest, though. Grimlock was charging once more. At least he was smiling.

OK, then... Time to be serious.

*************

Art breathed out heavily, still holding onto the sword that literally had cut the clearing in two, and watched Grimlock breath just as hard. His wakizashi was gone, knocked into the other side of the clearing, but he still held his massive katana. 

Two hours. 

They had been at it for two hours and neither had managed to land a hit. As infuriating as it was, Artonus was determined to win. Partially because he wanted drinks, but also because it was an interesting challenge. 

Sure, Grimlock would easily have the victory given access to his magic, but this was more fun. So, Art decided to use something. It was a small thing, just a bracelet to the eye, but he had designed it for so much more. 

"Amplifier Chain, activate."

Magic exploded into Art, more than he had ever had felt before. He wanted to sit there and feel the burning feeling throughout his body to take notes, but Grimlock was moving towards him, obviously noticing the change. Well, now or never. 

Art grabbed everything - the grass, stray rocks, some trees on the outskirts of the clearing, and even his own diamond obelisk sword that separated the two halves of their arena - and merged them into thousands of small spears of crystal. 

The burning intensified and Art's vision grew blurry, but he held on and released all the spears at once. Like reversing an explosion, they slammed into Grimlock. Just as they hit, Art released the magic. 

In the center of the clearing, Grimlock was still standing. On his arm, though, was a single tiny scratch. 

Art smiled. "I win!" He then fall back, feeling none of the accomplishment he had expected.

Win or not, this was a failure. He had barely managed to scratch Grimlock with his Amplifier Chain and using the cheapest trick he had. And now he was too tired to fight anymore. He wanted more power, but he knew it was pointless. His best bet was...

Fallen and Marx. Yes, he would forge them into Mages worthy of Gods.

Designs for new Chains started forming in his head even before Grimlock helped him to his feet.

The End

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