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Queenie arrives in the morning, opening Eden’s door without knocking to announce that after breakfast they’ll be going to Ursus Union, and its training grounds.

“Can’t we just use the street outside?” Eden asks, throwing an arm over his eyes, but Queenie just shuts the door without replying. “I like the street. Me and those cobblestones really built up a friendship.”

An hour later, they’re on the tram that circles the wall, trundling slowly around towards Ursus. Eden can see it from his window, a building larger than Leopardos’, towering up next to a circular arena.

The tram eventually stops, and Eden has to trudge down the wall’s stairs, following the rest of his dormitory as they chat among themselves. As soon as they’ve entered the training grounds, a wall of noise hits Eden, enough to make him reflexively clap a hand over his ear. Cheering, his mind supplies. They’re expressing support.

Luso tugs him out of the doorway and into the stands, pushing him down onto a seat. The seats are filled with keybearers, clustered together into different unions: The largest group by far are dressed in brown, green, and turqoise, or decorated with bear symbols -- they must be Ursus. Scattered around the rest of the seats are boys and girls in white and red for Unicornis, or pink and purple for Vulpes. Eden notes that he can’t see anybody wearing Anguis’ blues.

“Look, looklooklook,” Luso says, pointing down at the arena and the two people standing there: One brawny, dressed in white with a unicorn design in red across his shoulder; and one tall and slender, his long blond hair tied back into a ponytail, dressed in flowing gold and purple, with a jeweled bear talisman on one hip.

“I’m looking,” Eden says. “Are we -- meant to be cheering for one of them?”

“Sure, I guess. If you’re going to cheer for one, cheer for Orrin. He’s from Unicornis’ second dormitory,” Luso says. “The guy in yellow is Mateus, the dorm leader for Ursus’ first dormitory.”

“Unicornis and Ursus end up fighting here a lot, these days,” Izana says. “Since they’re both vying for the top spot.”

“Honestly,” Adelle says, yawning. “It’s boring to see them brawling here every day.”

“But you can learn something from watching them. Mateus is a light element user like you, Eden,” Queenie says.

Orrin summons his keyblade, a huge thing almost half his size, and Mateus regards him coolly, lifting one hand to beckon him. With a cry, Orrin charges forward, keyblade raised over his head.

Izana grimaces.

“What an idiot,” Alvis mutters.

Mateus doesn’t move, but as Orrin closes in on him, a magic circle opens beneath his feet, carved into the sound in glowing lines. There’s a sharp sucking noise, followed by a crack as Orrin is rooted to the ground, sparks of electricity crackling around him.

Mateus flicks a hand, and Orrin is flung upwards, crashing into another magic circle, hanging in the air. As Eden watches, a half dozen more appear around the arena, slanted at diagonals, drifting sedately through the air. Mateus flicks his hand this way and that, batting Orrin between them.

He leans forward, resting his chin on his hand, and slides one foot beneath his chair. As Mateus twists his hand, holding Orrin in mid-air as the circles converge on him, Eden scrapes the tip of his shoe against the floor, then taps it lightly.

The circles collide with an explosion of light and flame, and Orrin tumbles out of the smoke, landing on his knees, clinging to his keyblade, breathing heavily.

“An adequate diversion,” Mateus says, raising his hand above his head, and summoning into it a keyblade like a golden wing.

The crowd’s cheers rise to a fever pitch as he brings the keyblade down, scything through the air.

Eden leaps forward, trailing after-images as he dives down from the stands and into Mateus’ path, keyblade appearing in his hand. The two blades collide with a wave of force, shoving Eden down onto one knee.

Mateus raises an eyebrow. “What’s this?”

“Sorry,” Eden says wryly, mustering a quick smile. “My hand slipped.”

Behind Mateus, in the front rows, he sees four other keybearers rise. That must be the rest of his dormitory. They’re halfway to their feet when their fifth member, a red-haired boy with a hat tipped over his eyes, holds an arm out in their path.

“Meddling child,” Mateus murmurs.

“Unicorn Dude here has had enough,” Eden says, straining against the ground, pushing Mateus’ keyblade back enough to rise to his feet. “You’ve proven your point, you know? Several points. Like, nine different points. Too many points.

Mateus regards him for a moment, then steps back, flourishing his keyblade. “Raise your keyblade.”

“I really didn’t come here to fight,” Eden says. “Actually, I didn’t want to come here at all.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Izana, Queenie, Freyra, and Alvis hurrying into the arena. Izana raises his hands placatingly as he reaches Eden’s side.

“Sorry, Eden here is new,” Izana says, in his most calming voice. “We should have reined him in.”

Mateus sniffs delicately. “Then you can all step aside. My duel with Orrin here isn’t done. Not until the Chirithys name me as the victor.”

“It is done,” Eden says. “I’m telling you that it’s done. You won. Congrats. We’ll throw a party.”

“Eden,” Queenie says, warningly.

“If you’re not going to move,” Mateus says. “Then I’ll make you move.”

---


Eden’s keyblade spins out of his hand, and lands embedded in the sand on the other side of the arena, as his back hits the ground. Nearby, Alvis is face down, and Izana is sprawled on his side next to him. Freyra is slumped against a wall on the other side of the arena.

Eden feels something hot on his face, just beneath his nose, and reaches over to touch it. It’s a deep red liquid, with a sharp smell that makes his eyes water.

Queenie darts behind Mateus, swinging her keyblade towards him, but a few quick strikes later, she’s on the ground as well, her keyblade spinning across the sand.

Mateus looms over her, keyblade raised, when a voice rings out.

“That’s enough.”

One by one, they appear: Eden’s Chirithy, perched on his chest, then five more, and finally the last one, appearing on Mateus’ shoulder.

“Master Aced requests your presence,” Mateus’ Chirithy says.

“I’m busy,” Mateus replies, brushing some hair out of his face. There are purple marks blossoming around one of his eyes. Eden’s not sure which of them landed the hit.

“Master Aced insists. He needs assistance teaching the lower dormitories,” Mateus’ Chirithy says. “Your work here is done. We’re all in agreement that you’re the victor.”

The other Chirithys nod in unison.

“Fine,” Mateus says, and gestures to the rest of his dormitory, stalking towards the exit.

Eden pulls himself to his feet, forcing himself to ignore his aching legs, making sure he’s standing before Mateus can leave. “Let’s do this again sometime, Matty.”

Mateus doesn’t respond.

Chirithy swings himself onto Eden’s shoulder. “Ursus has an infirmary. We should go there now.”

“I’ll pass. I think I’ve had enough of this place.”

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Eden Llyx

May 2017

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