Aethon Thai couldn’t deny that his instincts, which had told him right as the fight was beginning that this might happen. This was always a possibility. But he just… he just wished…
He watched his daughter fall forward, her head leaning against the boy’s chest. The boy instantly embraced her. A roaring filled his ears as his fists on the desk in front of him tightened. This… this presumptuous….!
A voice drifted over from a nearby crater in the ground, where the voice’s owner had been smashed earlier. “Kukuku…. Stop it you two, save something for the wedding night.”
The blood drained out of Claptrap’s face, and he looked deathly ill. Meanwhile, that blood seemed to drain straight out of him and into Aethon, who felt his vision become tinged with red. Still, Aethon was forced to push down his urge to once more smash his drinking partner, because several referees rushed the arena, as the Ghosthound too collapsed, after the announcement of his victory.
Because they were touching already, as they fell towards the ground, all Aethon Thai could imagine was the worthless Ghosthound taking advantage of the confusion, and-
“Wow, I truly am lucky to be a spear attendant to such a bold man… right in front of her father, kukukuku…”
With a twitching eyelid, Aethon moved at the maximum possible speed, cracking the announcer booth and sending Claptrap sprawling, appearing at the two youth’s side before the referees could get there, his hands extending to shove the Ghosthound away and grab his daughter.
To his surprise, there was an individual who was only a half step behind him, who was reaching for the Ghosthound. A bald, aged man, with soft eyes, and a firm jaw. Someone, that after a split second of surprise, Aethon recognized.
“Divveltian. It truly has been too long. Heh, I was wondering about how this Ghosthound could accomplish so much, so he was your student as well.”
Divveltian smiled, and there was something very… bitter about it that threw Aethon. “Heh… I’m surprised you remembered me Captain Thai… but no, I cannot claim responsibility for this boy. That move… was self invented.”
Aethon Thai’s eyes widened. “He… created that….?”
“A runic rarity skill set.” Divveltian answered in a very small voice.
“Hey…. don’t act like I’m not still here,” The Ghosthound boy said, struggling to stand up. To Aethon’s surprise, Divveltian stepped back and away, letting him stand on his own, and although he swayed back and forth, the Ghosthound stood straight, looking haggard but well enough.
“Congratulations, boy.” He said simply, his face becoming much more serious as his eyes scanned the youth in front of him, searching for… something. And also deathly afraid that he would bring up Ciel’s promise of marriage at this juncture, in such a public location. Although it would hurt his pride, he would simply deny it, no matter-
“It really was… a lot of fun…. But we still have much more to do…” The Ghosthound boy muttered staring fixedly at Ciel, and then fell backwards, where Divveltian was there to grab his shoulders.
If it wasn’t for both of them having served together on the frontlines for several years, Aethon Thai might have eviscerated the Ghosthound and Divveltian both. It was a lot of fun? GRABBING HIS DAUGHTER LIKE THAT? AND THEY STILL HAD MORE TO-
His chest heaving, Aethon forced himself to turn away, holding his daughter protectively. Perhaps, he thought, they would simply flee the city, running from this womanizing fool Ghosthound. No matter what promises… promise ahem, his daughter might have made… this was truly too much for him to handle.
Divveltian’s final words gave Aethon pause, but then they parted ways, with their injured charges. “Be careful, Captain Thai. There is something very bad going on in Deardun. I smell… a very familiar perfume. Something very, very nostalgic.”
Randidly grinned up at Divveltian’s stern face. But the older spear user continued to glower at him, before finally sighing.
“You mean to tell me…” Divveltian said slowly. “That both of those moves… were done for the first time there, on the stage? That you did them blindly, without understanding their effect on your body?”
Randidly’s smile faltered somewhat. “Well… mostly I didn’t make the mental connection that I needed to ever before. It was a concept sort of thing. For both of them. Once they clicked, I felt like I could accomplish it, so-”
“Are you mentally handicapped?” Divveltian said, his glare even more vicious now. “Setting aside the damage you could have done to your body… your own resilient nature would have probably protected you, I’ll give you that, why would you think that you could successfully perform one, let alone TWO variants of your moves in one match!?? You are a lucky piece of shit that she didn’t force you to use the Phantom’s Embrace again, or you would have just gotten yourself a shattered spine.”
“I-” Randidly went to say, but he was swiftly cut off.
“No, don’t even start. I’ve seen the Phantom’s Embrace done; you got lucky today. Without powerful observational skills and the physical abilities to keep up with what you will see, you will just smash yourself, without any guard up, into their attack. Maybe your variant on the charging skill is more reasonable, but for the Phantom’s Embrace… you played with fire. Don’t be gleeful because you won, but nervous because you almost died.”
Again, Randidly opened his mouth, but then what Divvet was saying slowly sank in, and his mouth drifted closed. He had a point. He wasn’t sure how he had found the perfect edge of force to ride on the first time. It had just been… instinct. Nothing more.
“You… knew Aemont? You saw him fight?” Randidly asked. After all, Shal hadn’t been able to master the Phantom’s Embrace, which was why Shal tried to get Randidly to master it. It had ultimately paid off, but still, it could clearly demonstrate his frustration with his inability to master the skill. If Divvet knew of the Phantom’s Embrace…
“…yes.” Divvet answered shortly. “When used at its full force… it made him invulnerable. You…are not at that point yet. You cause ripples, but that skill isn’t even at the Artisan level. You need to focus on your image more. But I suppose now you understand its full strength…”
“But it couldn’t have made him invulnerable, right?” Randidly asked, sitting up, wincing. Even his own powerful regeneration was having a hard time coping with the huge amount of strain and micro muscle tears that he was plagued with. “After all, he was killed by the Devourer.”
Divvet was silent for a long time. “It… cannot be denied that Aemont is dead. But I stayed on the front lines after he returned to his family. The details of what happened in that castle… no one truly knows.”
“You… fucking ghost….” Shal spat out, along with a mouthful of blood, glaring at the figure of Aemont standing over him. Maybe he had gotten soft from all the time he had spent training Randidly, but Shal had sorta believed that his level of skill and control had increased a level, based on his spar with the boy without killing him.
But his father- no, Aemont, continued to stand tall and firm, a wall in his path.
The other real impediment to victory… was the fact Shal was stubbornly refusing to attack with the Spear Phantom Style. He would only use the Style created by himself and Pronto, in those whispered, brotherly moments all those years ago.
It was shallow and contradictory and inefficient, but Shal refused to give up. At least this Style was based on integrity. And no matter the disparity between them, Shal would not give in and use the skills taught to him by Aemont.
What was most annoying about the whole arrangement was not that Shal was being beaten, but that the whole time, ghost Aemont didn’t say anything about it. He didn’t encourage Shal to switch from the weak Style, didn’t taunt him on his weakness and the weakness of the Style, didn’t lord his superiority over Shal at all.
It seemed that Aemont even had a deep respect for Shal’s decision. Which, of course, made Shal furious. The damn ghost had even stopped its constant “Take It’s” that had become so common in the last few stretches of dreamscape that Shal remembered.
Straightening slowly, Shal readied his spear. Aemont watched him, his eyes mild, his hands on his spear relaxed. He exuded an impossible confidence, just like the real thing had done. A strength that made all other things unnecessary. A strength that gave him the confidence to take what he wanted and expect others around him would do the same.
A strength that inspired strength. A strength that…
…that had a certain brutal integrity.
“Fuck you.” Shal whispered, eyes burning, as he tightened his hands on the shaft of the spear, then lashed out towards Aemont.