As prevalent as the magic had become in the world in recent years, the outside world didn’t convey it as such. Or at least, that was the case compared to here. It was like stepping into a novel or a movie. That moment when the rambunctious heroes of the story get welcomed to the real world, the behind the scenes, behind the curtain. To think that it was a short three years ago I had entered into college with a vow to do things right, the best way I knew how. I had a feeling that I would be breaking that vow, for nothing could prepare me, prepare us, for what we were experiencing.
The three of us just sort of floated through the room as Lille and her pet guided us. Our constantly swiveling heads warranted looks as we passed through the crowd. The air was thick, the heat from everybody rolling off and creating a cloud of sweat and excitement. People continued to dance around, with plastic cups in their hands; the alcohol inside swooshing around as droplets careened over the edges and onto the floor. We were going somewhere in particular, and it was getting louder and louder.
“And this is the highlight of our club,” Lille said as she came to a pause. At he far side of the hall, opposite that of the entrance, was a large glass window. People were pressed up against the glass, cheering frantically and spewing profanity like it was no ones business. Lille ushered us to draw closer, and after finally pushing through the tight crowd, our eyes were soon met with the very thing that had everybody in a frenzy.
“Dude. That guy is huge!” Lyn said in awe.
“And that other guy is so small in comparison. And they are going to fight?” Aleema questioned. A man to our right began to chuckle loudly. He looked completely out of place, wearing khaki pants, and button up shirt and thick, brown rimmed glasses. His hair was the same shade as his glasses, cut in a bowl-style. His voice was slightly cooler than his appearance.
“You three must be hatch-lings, huh?” he began. “That big guy doesn’t stand a chance against Skylar. That “little guy” hasn’t lost a match in three months. I can’t wait to see him take on the league champion,”
We returned our attention to the arena beyond the glass. It was a large platform, probably about the size of a basketball court. The ceiling reached up several stories, probably to accommodate for those that you could use flight magic. There was a large, holographic screen that floated in the air in the middle of the stage. I also noticed that multiple holographic screens has appeared in multiple areas throughout the hall, and everyone was crowded around them in anxiety. I could barely make it out, but it appeared like there were two elevated seats on the opposite side of us, but I could make out who was sitting on them. A voice suddenly overcame the entire hall.
“The match between Skylar 100 and the challenger, Robbie Hilton is about to commence. The rules are as follows…Shit you know how we roll here. Just don’t kill each other. And if you do, you’ll be suspended for a month. Last time I had to used my attorneys for this it cost me a fortune. Remember, if you hear the gong, that means the match is considered over. Are we ready to go, my children?!”
The entire hall erupted into applause. It was like going to a professional sporting event. I had never seen so many magicians in one place, let alone acting like this. Then again, they were people too. Glancing over to the twins, I noticed the large mischievous smiles had returned. I had lost them, and honestly, I wouldn’t doubt that I was about the lose myself. There was this energy in the air that made me just want to scream.
“Without further ado…Rubian, make some fucking noise!” The crowd somehow increased in volume as the large and muscular Robbie Hilton began to charge towards Skylar, who remained still.
“You little punk!” Robbie shouted, spit flying from his rabid mouth. He then materialized a club twice his size with large black spikes in it. “You need to sit your ass down!”
“That’s a big ass club!” Lyn exclaimed, her hands pressed against the cerulean, clear glass.
“And he’s wielding it like it’s a feather!” Aleema responded.
“You two should be commentators,” the nerd-looking guy said. “How about I treat you two to drinks later?”
“No,” the three of us said in unison. The twins quickly glanced at me, as I felt some heat building up in my cheeks. I swiftly looked back to the action, although I could see the happiness in their eyes.
Skylar 100 still stood there, just smirking, as the club was mere yards from crushing into him.
“You simpleton,” he taunted. In an instant, he vanished, as the club came crashing down on a the void where Skylar once was. Robbie regained his posture and began swinging around violently.
“Where are you, you damn pest?”
“Really? Pest? Haha, big guys like you always try to pick on small guys like me. But if you can’t even see me, how can you fight me? Funny thing is, I can see you all too well!” The crowd continued to cheer on, as a chant for Skylar began. That alone made the brute, Robbie uncomfortable, as he sent out a war cry and began flailing around.
“Damn, must you be so impatient? I don’t even get to play with you. Fine then, you asked for it,” Skylar’s voice echoed. Out of nowhere, a plethora of smaller Skylars began to run towards the flailing Robbie, who began smashing them one by one. However it was futile, if one fell, three more appeared in its place. Soon, a bunch of small Skylars were crawling all over Robbie, who was swatting at them like flies. The crowd’s intensity grew as Robbie’s defeat was becoming quite certain.
“Should I finish this, guys?” Skylar’s echoing voice came one once again.
“One…Hundred…Slash!” The crowd roared. The tiny Skylars pounced off Robbie and formed a circle around him. With blinding speed, they all jumped up, as a storm of red light appearing as cut marks bombarded poor Robbie. Screaming out in pain, he was soon brought to his knees, as the Skylars molded back into the original body. He held a tiny blade in his hand, and with one final swoop from above, crashed down past Robbie, who’s dilapidated body fell hard against the floor.
“Skylar is the victor!” the voice from before roared, as the entire hall began to vibrate with cheer.
“That was…amazing!” the words barely escaped from Lyn’s lips.
“He didn’t kill him did he?” Aleema naively asked.
“No,” I stated. They glanced over to discover my gloved hand against the glass. They hadn’t an idea that I was analyzing the match from the on start. “Robbie stood no chance, though,” The glow of the glove began to fade back to his dim pulse.
“You were able to see into his magical code from way over here? Beyond the glass?” Lyn asked. I nodded.
“His code was nearly completely illuminated, I’d say about 90%, which means he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet, or at least I assume. He has the ability, as you saw, to split his body into 100 smaller versions. He can also regenerate these clones as soon as they are destroyed, however, there is one out of the lot that contains is real “spirit” so to speak. If that one is hit, then all of them disappear and he reverts back to normal. There’s no way to distinguish it from the others though. He also appears to be rather proficient with that butterfly knife,” I explained. Somehow above the roar of the crowd, we could hear clapping from behind. Swiveling around, we saw two people, a man and a woman. He stood a foot taller then her, half a foot taller than I. He was wearing what appeared to be a solid white military uniform, with gold trim, gold buttons, and three purple stars in a row where the chest pocket would be. His pants matched the whiteness of his shirt, as did his shoes. He himself was peach in color, with dark brown eyes and silvery gray hair. He looked very young, however. She was wearing a modest, office-style navy suit. Her hair was purple and tied back into a bun. She also wore navy rimmed glasses, that guarded a pair of icy blue eyes.
“Who are you, exactly?” I questioned.
“Oh, forgive my manners. My name is General Thomas Whitehouse, and this is my personal assistant, Hera Pultzier. It is a pleasure to make your, acquaintance,” the two of them bowed politely.
“The people here are weird, Alex. Who are these clowns?” Lyn asked grabbing my left shoulder.
“I agree with my sister, this is strange,” Aleema held onto the other. I sighed and shrugged the two of them off.
“Forgive my friends, General Thomas and Hera. They don’t know when to stay quiet sometimes,” I said. The twins stuck their tongues out as me. The man however replied with a generous chuckle. Hera’s face remained stern.
“Oh no, it is quite alright. We are quite a weird bunch, as they have said. But, hopefully, you’ll come to value us as companions of yours,” he responded, waving his hand back and forth.
“What do you mean as our companions?” Lyn chimed up.
“Yes, I am sure you all have many questions for my assistant and I, and they will be answered in due time. That is of course, if you allow me to explain why it is that I sought you out?”
The twins glanced at me for an answer, of which I responded with a nod. The night was not boring , that was for sure. “Very well then, we’ll listen to whatever it is you have to say,”
“Splendid!” He clapped his hands. “Hera, please secure us a large booth if you will, while I fetch us some drinks,”
“Understood,” she simply stated and disappeared into the crowd. We followed General Thomas over to one of the several bars in the hall. There was a rather large crowd at this one in particular, and I could see why. The guy behind the counter had six, ethereal hands protruding from his back making separate drinks, in addition to his two real hands. As we walked up to the counter, the crowd parted like the red sea, allowing the General to slip to the front.
“Tommy! My boy! How are ya doin’?” the bartender responded with a voice canon to 1920’s New York City.
“I’m just swell, my friend. I see you’re showing off as usual,” General Thomas responded with a smile.
“Haha, anything for the ladies, ya know what I’m sayin’? Your boy lookin’ good up there and stuff. Crazy to think he’s just been flyin’ through opponents!”
“Skylar is doing a fine job. Be sure to treat him to whatever he wants, on me of course,”
“You got it, my friend. Ahh, I see you snagged up three hatch-lings. You’re always on the ball so early, Save some for the rest of em, will ya?” the eight armed bartender said, winking at the twins. They took a step back behind me.
“You know I can’t do that. But I have different things in mind with this group actually, but I’m sure they’ll be interesting in the fray as well,” General Thomas said. I saw this as my opportunity to speak up, for I had been quiet for too long and just observing. It wasn’t like me to be this quiet.
“My name is Alex Cristoph. A pleasure,” I held out my hand. On his free ethereal hands reached down to encompass my entire hand. I could feel it!
“They call me Hands here, which is a dumb nickname I know. Call me Earl though. And yes, they look transparent, but I can turn the solid factor on and off with my choosin’ Neat huh?”
“I’d say,” I simply responded.
“So, what can I get for ya? The normal, Tommy?” Earl asked. The general looked down at me, but I simply shrugged. I didn’t think I would be drinking this much tonight.
“Yes, four regulars please,” The General said gingerly. Earl nodded his head and began making the drinks in a dazzling display. He soon placed four tall glasses for a bluish green concoction on a tray and slid them over to us. The General pulled out a $100 bill and placed in directly in Earl’s hand.
“Thank you my friend, this’ll buy me something nice this week!”
“No problem, and thank you. I’ll swing by later to take care of the tab,” the General said as he floated away.
That was only a tip! Who is this guy I wondered. We made our way over to a large booth, away from most of the commotion. Hera had remained standing, almost like she was a guard dog. She ushered a hand out for the General to sit on the side she was pointing to. We filed in on the other side, as the General began handing out the drinks to everyone except Hera.
“So I’m guessing you’re his DD as well?” Lyn questioned Hera, who didn’t respond.
“Hera and alcohol…simply do not mix very well,” the General’s voice was a little shaky, as if hinting to some hidden reason. I took a cautious look at my drink. Of course, the twins had already taken a huge gulp.
“This…this is amazing!” Aleema screeched in glee. Lyn nodded, as they continued to sip the mixed drink.
“Great right? Came up with myself when I was your age,” The General responded. “Go ahead, my boy. Try it.” I simply nodded and took a small sip, which turned into multiple swallows. It was exquisite. You could barely taste the alcohol. It was like there was a tropical beach party occurring in my mouth. I put the drink down quickly, for I didn’t want to get too distracted.
“It is good,” I stated flatly. “However, I am still very curious why you wished to talk with us,”
“Ahh yes,” he said. “I can see you are about business, which I find that to be admirable. Alex, was it? And your friends are?”
“Aleema and Lyn at your service sir!” they replied in unison with giggly voices. “Would it be too much to ask for more?” I flashed them a look of disapproval, however, the General raised a hand.
“Not a problem. Hera, if you will?” The purple haired lady nodded and left to retrieve more drinks. “I’m glad you girls like them!” Aleema and Lyn nodded wildly, their smiles drunk with pleasure, quite literally. Light weights.
“Why are we here?” my voice grew more stern and agitated.
“You could learn to loosen up, like your friends here,” The General said.
“Yea, Alex!” Lyn began. “Listen to the smart man!”
“We try to break him, but he’s pretty stubborn. We still love him though,” Aleema finished her sister’s thought. Lyn’s face flushed red as she clamped her hands on Aleema’s mouth and the two began to whisper to each other, frantically. I merely shook my head and General Thomas laughed.
“Truth is, I was mainly interested in you Alex, although your friends are certainly I nice bonus. You see, you and I are a lot alike. We can see the potential in people before they can see it themselves. It gives us a sort of edge. It is was has made me very successfully in doing what I do,” the man in white declared.
“And what would that be exactly?” I asked. The General, who had yet to touch his drink, grabbed it and downed the entire thing. Wiping the remnant droplets from his lips, his posture remained perfect, completely unaffected.
“I’m what you would call…a sponsor,”