(( As per Yousogreat challenge, I present you this. It came out fairly serious - comments and criticism are welcome. Sorry for grammar mistakes if any. ))
Best of the Best
The Proving Grounds, November 21 CLE, precise date unknown
The hooded fighter’s rough voice growled in midst of a mix of sounds filling the middle (and only) lane of the Proving Grounds. The slight breeze touched his torn cloak, and the flame inside the brass lantern he held batted side to side. The minion wave reached him – the first tiny construct barely raised its mechanical limb to take a blunt swing at Jax, but its weapon faced emptiness; already one step to the left, the warrior has finished the rotation. Accelerated by his momentum, the lamppost brutally smashed into the minion, knocking it back towards its companions. Broken and knocked down, the construct rolled on the ground before it met an obstacle.
Jax paused, and froze in place, entirely motionless. His… ‘eyes’ didn’t move; but the ‘obstacle’ knew that it was being watched. “Come on, we haven’t got all day!” A cheery, off-pitch voice followed, as Wukong threw the broken minion to the side. “Why not attack?” He made inviting gestures, grinning at the Armsmaster.
‘…Eleven, Twelve, One, Tw~’
The lamppost flared; the movement barely visible, it shot upwards, smashing against thin air. “Wha… How do you?!...” The long, unnaturally extended staff was glowing with another sort of energy, grinding against the lamppost’s battered edge. Wukong growled, and collapsed the weapon back to its normal length, becoming slowly visible as his taunting clone dispersed into a cloud of smoke. The sudden movement left Jax’s weapon without support – the unused momentum of the strike burst out, as the lamppost’s swing continued, smashing it into the stone corridor’s wall. A few stones fell out.
“Tell me how you saw that! We agreed to do it without those bottles, did you break the rules?..” Wukong kept his stance, now at a distance from Jax. The champion’s face was grim, but his eyes still had sparks in them, quickly switching from one point on his opponent’s body to the other, plotting out a follower move.
“No.” Jax was plain and simple. One couldn’t tell where he was looking; still as a rock, and unmovable just as much, all of his posture.
“Ask your master!” The Armsmaster cut him off. The lamppost rolled in his hands. “Figuring out the other guy is what separates good from the best. And clearly you don’t have it yet.”
“Yeah? Well we’ll just see about that!” The monkey shook the staff at him, and grinned; revealing instantly, the same staff took a heavy horizontal swing behind Jax, aimed right at his head. But it didn’t have time to connect; the Armsmaster was at ready – not even lifting his lamppost, he followed the staff’s motion with his hand. Grabbing it mid-swing, Jax held it firm, and changed the balance point; as the movement continued, the staff bent, and Wukong, still holding onto it, was launched into the wall, his eyes wide open. Jax let go – a crashing sound followed, as the monkey warrior knocked out a few more stones from the wall. The minions from both sides seemed to hesitate to enter the fight, reflecting the impression of the Junior Summoners controlling them.
Wukong grumbled, jumping back into a fighting stance. “You never did this on the Fields before! What is this? How do you see me?” The staff started rotating in his hands, impatient to go for a new blow.
“I don’t. Go figure.” Still unmoved, Jax stood in the middle of the corridor in his favorite fighting stance. He loosened up; and then put his lamppost on the ground similar to a normal one, leaning onto it. “It’s getting boring. You got nothing new.”
“Of course it is! You are just, uh… cheating! Yeah, that’s it!” Wukong pointed at Jax, frowning.
“Cheating? Hey, you dare accuse me? I haven’t fought for all these years just for some monkey here to call me out.” Jax’s grip on the lamppost became too strong all of a sudden as his fingers paled a bit. “That’s not my way.”
“A way? You humans here fight for entertainment, not survival.” Wukong calmed down, and slowly took a high stance. “Is having fun beating each other up a way?” Suddenly, he took a step forward, and lunged the staff at Jax – he was a dozen meters away, but the pole lengthened, coming at the fighter with a threatening speed.
“I knew you wouldn’t…” Jax simply stepped to the side, grazing the pole by mere inches; a few meters behind him, it hit the ground, sending rock shrapnel and dust into the air. “…get it.”
“Maybe… but I got you!” Wukong grinned – just as the pole began shortening, its far end curved, and swept under Jax’s feet, tripping him. The monkey hopped towards him, and a small cloud of smoke carried him from below. Wukong held the staff with both hands, and swung it down in a wide arc.
But instead of connecting to his opponent, the staff met nothing but a brass pole, clashing violently against it. “Cheating, huh.” Jax sprung up from the ground in a backflip, avoiding a follower from Wukong. The lamppost in his hands flared; making wide horizontal swings, he smashed at the monkey king’s defenses, trying to knock his strikes off balance. Not getting caught off-guard, Wukong accepted the exchange, and followed in with grazing short strikes of his staff.
The swings were getting faster from both sides, as neither fighters gave in; a few dozen strikes have been traded, not one hitting the mark. Almost in unison, both weapons flared with power, and clashed again – a shockwave boomed between the fighters, blowing road dust away through the corridor. In a horrible sound of metal scratching metal, the weapons remained clashed in a match of pure strength.
“Did he tell you?” Jax’s rough voice broke the ‘silence’.
“Who, what?” Wukong remained concentrated, not going to be distracted.
“Your master. He has taught you how to talk to your opponent through your strikes, right?” Jax didn’t shift an inch while talking.
“Yeah, he said something like that. Why?” The monkey sniffed. “That sounds stupid. Can’t you just say it?”
“No. It’s something better than just words.” Jax sighed – it sounded really, really strange. “Also, stop. On three. One, two, three.”
The two stood down, and broke the clash. Taking a few steps back, they stopped, each in his stance again.
“Defend yourself.” Jax shifted on his feet, and took a strange stance - his posture low, he held the lamppost at the middle, extending one palm towards his opponent.
Wukong raised an eyebrow, watching Jax approach, but lifted his staff in a defensive position. “Why can’t we ju~” An instant blow of the lamppost interrupted him; Jax rotated and struck again from the other side, then repeated. His swings were slow, and always came from a different side than the previous one – after at least eight deflected strikes, Wukong realized that not one of them was the same. Jax paused. Taking the opportunity, the monkey launched his own swift lunge.
The attack was deflected at once with great force, knocking Wukong off balance. Jax took a step forward, and began the same series of strikes, but twice as fast; having no option of defending, Wukong dodged the first few attacks and jumped back. But Jax didn’t stop as well, and kept walking forward, keeping up the attack pace. The final blow in the series was a perfectly vertical swing – Wukong parried it, having regained his balance already. But no force was in that blow; it was a feint, and now the monkey king was trapped. Jax rotated the lamppost, and launched the same series of attacks again, but now against a defenseless opponent. His swings hit Wukong dead on, but didn’t knock him back; the final swing followed, and the monkey king collapsed to the ground…
…To disappear in a cloud of smoke again. A chuckle was heard – the last attack series hit a mere clone, and Wukong was twice as prepared now. But instead of seeking him out, Jax suddenly stood still, and opened himself wide, spreading his arms and legs to the sides – his face looked skywards.
Not going to miss such a chance, Wukong dashed forward, carried by the same smoky cloud – appearing out of his short stealth, Wukong’s staff struck Jax’s chest in a direct hit, producing a loud ‘thud’.
…And nothing happened. Jax simply stood there – he showed no sign of damage, and Wukong’s staff didn’t sink into his chest even an inch; it seems that he didn’t even move at the moment of hit. The fighter lowered his head to look at his opponent, who was staring at him with wildly open eyes. “The best.” He simply said.
“But h~” Wukong opened his mouth, awed by what just happened, but was interrupted again. Faster than the blink of an eye, a lamppost came smashing into his side. Wukong felt how his legs get separated from the ground. Jax shifted on his feet, and made a full rotation. His free hand glowed with force; it dashed upwards at a startling speed, and the fist smashed into Wukong’s body that was not protected with armor. The monkey king let go of his staff; his joints stiffening, he smashed into the wall, and shattered into pieces of stone.
‘You have been slain!’
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‘Amazing. That felt so inconsistent, but meaningful. It felt as if the assault was coming from every side, and coming from a few different people. And then at the end, he… So he fights alone? Against everyone? That isn’t new, but…’
Wukong’s thoughts were blatantly interrupted. His body was reconstructed, and transported back to the spawn platform, and it was time to return out there. The monkey king grabbed his staff, and ran forward to the stone corridor, passing a new wave of minions who seemed to have broke from hesitation. Jax was pushing forward with his own wave, having at the minions with short strikes of his lamppost.
Breaking from a jog to a dash, Wukong leapt forwards in a straightforward lunge of his staff. In mid-air, his body split into several others, who picked all their own minions, and hit them dead-on, scattering the wave. Working with wide swings, Wukong cleared out the enemy wave, and turned back – behind him, Jax was finished with the same.
“So. Did I get it through?” Jax’s voice rumbled as he planted the lamppost on the ground and leant onto it.
“Yeah, sort of. It felt like you were fighting against everyone, but you were so calm at the end – I don’t get it.” Wukong juggled the staff from one hand to another.
Jax sighed. “It’s hard for you, isn’t it? I’m not fighting ‘cause I like it, you see…” He looked at the battered lamppost at his side. He pointed at it with his other hand. “This is just an example of what I think about all this League stuff and war business.”
“But why? You want to be the best – how could you do it if you don’t like it?”
“I don’t even want to be the best. I have to. And when I am, I’m gonna stop – because then, there would be no one left around me.”
Jax stopped leaning onto the lamppost, and pointed it at Wukong’s Nexus. “You see that? All of that is made so that people would fight each other. And what good does it do if no one fights? Nothing. People put so much effort into beating the living hell out of each other, it makes me sick.”
Jax walked a bit, and looked at the broken walls of the stone corridor. “But there won’t be any point in that if there is someone who’s unbeatable – fighting would become pointless, since the side having that guy would have victory by default.” Jax paused. “Maybe when that happens, they would finally get to doing something useful instead of wasting time on this.”
Wukong didn’t know what to say – to him, fighting was natural, and a part of himself, so he didn’t get why would someone want to fight for the sake of not doing so. Jax turned his head towards the monkey, and pointed at him. “And you – you said you’re gonna be the best too, right? What for?”
“I don’t know. It was just my thing, ever since I was born. Everyone told me I’m different, and I always outmatched each of my kin, so that’s just my thing, really.” Before he could realize it, Wukong was already sitting down in the middle of the corridor, his staff standing nearby. “They told me I had some kind of huge power in me, and trained me so hard to handle it, I did almost nothing besides fighting first them, then wild animals, and now I’m here.”
“The Rune stone… I heard about it. You’ve got more to you than you show – that’s why the old guy picked you as an apprentice.”
“Well, maybe.” Wukong scratched his chin – there was a small stone stuck in there. **** newbie Summoners, he thought. “But I’ve been reading books about the huma~” He suddenly stopped, and looked at Jax.
Jax was shaking slightly. “…Sorry. I just thought that the concept of you reading… Never mind, go on.”
“Yeah, right. So, as I was saying…” Wukong frowned a bit, but didn’t really take it to heart. “This rune thing I have in me sounds really strong. When I told my master that I don’t want to keep it like that, he called it respe… ugh, what was it…”
“That. And then he said that he would help me handle it, while this League helps me in practice. So, here I am.” Wukong planted his hands onto his knees.
“Good. That’s a good reason.” Jax turned to Wukong, and held his lamppost with both hands.
“Yours isn’t bad either.” The monkey smirked, and got up, taking the staff from the ground and twirling it with his hand once. “You know, it feels somehow different when I know why we are here. It’s kind of annoying.”
“Hmph.” The rough fighter’s voice sounded… warm? “This just means you’ve come to respect me. And I usually don’t say, but it’s mutual. Now then, where were we…” The lamppost made a circle around Jax’s hand.
Wukong didn’t need a reminder this time – a cloud of smoke was already shaped below his feed, and was carrying him towards his… enemy? No. Opponent.
“Let’s make this good.” The rough voice came from his target.
“Yeah.” Wukong answered all of a sudden, surprised himself.
Without further ceremonies, Jax’s lamppost flared with energy, and in a moment’s notice the fighter leapt forwards, readying a wide overhead strike. Wukong’s staff flashed with power as well, and rose above the monkey’s head in the same motion. The two weapons met mid-air, and a dazzling light emanated from the clashing poles, enveloping the warriors.
Metal against metal. Strength versus strength. Peace meeting peace.
Two different goals, one end result.
Best of the best.