Destiny: Part Two
Most people with Talent are content to spend their lives perfecting their skills. Some, however, would have finished doing so at some point in their lives and would only be too happy to demonstrate the extent of their powers. But fewer yet are people who actually manage to learn a new skill. Though it is known that new sub-skills (as the term is coined) come only with absolute control of one’s pre-existing ability, Brightvale scientists have not discovered the exact causes (besides this base requirement).
Zaldron was one of these lucky few.
In theory, being able to swap positions freely with anyone in his line of sight does not sound spectacular, or at least, too spectacular. But at a second glance, this newfound sub-skill of Teleportation gave Zaldron a terrific advantage in battle, for it was now possible to not just remove herself from whatever confined position she was in, but also leave the enemy there at the same time. It would even disorient the opponent, buying her time should she need to escape. Or, as her close friend Elmist speculated, win her in whatever race in which the enemy was ahead of her. The possibilities were endless.
Elmist, who didn’t get a sub-skill himself, at once set about in helping Zaldron improve this ability, which they both knew could be of tremendous help in their S.P.Y missions. After all, Elmist’s ability to see into the future, whose attributes had now been boosted by the excellent training programmes provided by the spy organisation itself, had always been instrumental in predicting a time when it was safe to proceed, and eliminating any potential chances that they were caught red-handed. To take one example would be just a few months ago, when they had met. Elmist had demonstrated his ability by informing Zaldron to stay hidden in the library until exactly three and a half minutes later, since Zaldron was trying to avoid a bunch of bullies (who were on the lookout for her). Zaldron had been so amazed that she had rushed back to the base of S.P.Y and informed her boss in a rush, who became every bit as impressed, not hesitating a moment longer to warmly invite Elmist into the organisation. Flattered, Elmist had accepted without giving a second thought.
At first Zaldron was clumsy, and would teleport to a position right in front of Elmist, usually ending up toppling backwards in surprise. This went on for some time, but Elmist was patient, though he did get exasperated once in a while. And then it happened. Right in the middle of the millionth advice that Elmist was dispensing to focus on him and his body and his position and not that in front of him, Zaldron disappeared into thin air. At the next instant, Elmist was in her position, and she was in Elmist’s.
The two spies cheered heartily.
Unfortunately, their happiness was rather short-lived, for a messenger arrived then to bring them a note from S.P.Y. The note read: ***EMERGENCY***
Our spies have learnt that Meridell is building an army against our land.
Though the exact day when the battle is to occur is still undiscovered, we are to train as much as possible these days in preparation.
Glory to Brightvale.
As the last few words registered themselves in their brains, their bubbly happiness just a few minutes ago transformed into complete despair. A battle? In the near future? Neither of them had much practice with basic combat, let alone in a war. Their talents would be utterly useless here, and they might even risk losing their lives, suffering terribly in the process.
The two friends didn’t have to look into each other’s eyes to know that his/her partner was just as afraid as he/she was.***
They practiced, though. S.P.Y did, after all, aim for members well-balanced in all aspects of their lives to ensure efficiency, and naturally provided the necessary training.
Unfortunately, with the majority of their time spent on perfecting their fighting skills, Elmist and Zaldron saw less and less of each other. Once in a while they would pass by in the corridor, exchanging a wink or a smile or even a short conversation. It was always pleasant to hear improvement from the other party, or to catch up on the latest gossip at the organisation. But while this seemed like a friendly custom at first, it became more and more of a chore, and soon, their excitement at meeting each other was diminished, their smiles forced. The roots of their friendship had taken hold, yet it was as if an invisible wall had grown between them. It wasn’t the same anymore.
At least, their results demonstrated their greatly-improved skills. Elmist could whack his opponent with his wings with a large amount of force and even grasp them into the air with his claws, posing an immense threat to opponents vulnerable to heights. His ability to evade attacks through predicting his opponents’ moves also made him nearly invulnerable to any potential damage he might have taken. As for Zaldron, she learnt to do a backflip that, combined with her lightning-fast speed, could easily scald or even ignite her target. More importantly, her sub-skill had been perfected to the point where she could swap positions within half a second without too much concentration, though she still needed to focus on the image of the target.
The boss of S.P.Y, who was a muscular Lupe named Drake, watched their practice sessions in silence once in every few battles. Though he wasn’t the type to express his feelings openly, he was deeply impressed by the performance of his young spies and commended them with a small smile or a wink whenever they took a break (which, of course, they appreciated). He could tell they were glad about their rapid improvement and he was inclined to let himself fall under their excitement completely. Happiness is contagious, after all. Not that that was a bad thing. Or maybe it was.
Alas, the Lupe had a worry.
As might be implied from a serious, efficient Neopian, Drake seldom worried, no. He preferred taking action by going straight into whatever he wanted to solve and solving it, which was perfectly logical, since worries grow over time if left alone. But this particular worry was different.
He was afraid that they would lose the battle, even with what they were achieving.
It wasn’t a completely wild idea. From his coordinated research with King Hagan and, of course, interaction with his own spies, he learnt, not without pain, that Meridell was building a defence “like no other”. True, this phrase was vague, but clearly, it could mean that Meridell’s army would be something more than a few Talented Neopians could handle. Much, much more.
And as if to tighten this fear, Drake remembered Zaldron confessing to him not too long ago that she didn’t think Elmist liked her much anymore. He could tell that Zaldron meant it, and as usual there was a lot more to her words that the words themselves, but because it had seemed unimportant to him, and because he wasn’t really in the mood to converse, he had simply sent her off with a pat on the back and nothing more. But recalling that moment now, he kicked himself for not taking action sooner, perhaps by offering some more ice-breaking sessions between them occasionally in place of their regular practices, which he had failed to notice were pulling them further and further apart. At this crucial moment, when their battle skills had already been perfected, all that mattered would be the strength of friendship between his fighters and how much each would be willingly to sacrifice for one another. It could change the outcome of the entire battle, he knew.
Though, of course, however much winning the battle was his priority, it wasn’t the entire reason why Drake wanted to tighten his spies’ relationship. He genuinely cared about them and wanted each one to be concerned with his friends, too.
So the Lupe began to put in extra efforts into making sure that everyone was still close together. Offering encouragement at every little opportunity, however small. Removing the extra seats at the lunch table so everyone would sit closer together. Sending anonymous thank-you notes that he wrote was from ‘a secret admirer’. Even throwing a party. (Everyone was surprised. Much to Drake’s embarrassment, they thought it was some sort of prank.)
At long last, these acts seemed to be working. His members started being more open – to him and to one another, especially during mealtimes. They wore smiles on their faces more often, and were more patient in general when helping one another practice (which were also being carried out more enthusiastically).
When Elmist came to Drake one day to have a friendly chat, Drake almost expected it, and put on a manner warmer than usual. They exchanged greetings, and Elmist started the conversation. “I’m… just worried, I guess. That something is going to happen to me during the battle. You know… that thing.” Even after having talked about his far-future (of knives slashing him, if you can’t recall) as soon as he trusted the Lupe, Elmist wasn’t perfectly comfortable with discussing it. This Drake knew. In fact, he knew what Elmist was going to say even before he sat down. He might have had Elmist’s ability, for all he knew. And the words, made so natural from his change in heart to care about others more, came out smooth yet sincere as ever.
“I’ve thought about that a lot, and I’m positive that it will actually be a pleasant moment. Remember the bright lights flashing all around? Well, that probably means that it’s your destiny to shine!” They both laughed at the pun, and Elmist took off with a weight off his chest.
But all too soon, on a day when none of them felt prepared yet felt the need to fight more than ever in their bones, the battle came.
And the consequences would not be a joking matter.
To be continued…