The next morning, I woke up all hyper and energetic, finished my breakfast as quick as I could, and ran straight into the Main Hall where the Battle Team was supposed to meet. Scarlet, Joe, Violet, and the skeletons were already in the hall, and so were King James, Hannah, and Holly.
“Is everyone here?” King James asked, standing up from his throne and counting the number of heads in the Hall. I was shaking with excitement as the king gathered us to the center and adjusted his crown.
“Alrighty…” he said. He clapped his hands twice and the world spun around me.
I blinked just once, and after my eyes were open I realized that I was no longer in the Main Hall of the castle.
I was sitting on a wooden bench, with the usual six towers in front of me, three coated in red and three in blue. The Arena’s floor was made up of wooden tiles, instead of the grass in Training Camp, and the paths along the Arena were paved with stone. The river I had expected was replaced with gears, and on either side of the Arena were places for the audience to sit in. A banner was held high for everyone to see, that read “PotatoPotato VS JamesTheGreat”. This was without a doubt the Builder’s Workshop.
King James walked towards the center of the Arena and shook hands with the king we were opposing. Hannah and Holly also curtsied and bowed to the princesses dressed in red as a greeting to each other. Then, all the members of the royal family took their spots on top of the towers.
“Guys, I think I’m gonna mess up.” I lowered my head and admitted the truth, but Violet, of course, always had something to say to me.
“Danny, I’m a hundred-percent positive that you’re gonna win your first battle. Tell you what, King James has been waiting so long to receive you from the chest, that he exploded with happiness when you appeared in his silver chest. That just shows how powerful cannons are in our leagues right now,” Violet said. I didn’t tell her that King James had told something similar just the other day, but I nodded my head in thanks.
“And I have to bring this up again, but if you ever feel like you’re not doing as well as you should be during the battle, think of what Scarlet did at her first battle. Then you will know that nothing worse could happen,” Joe smiled. “Wait, why isn’t Scarlet pounding me to the ground? Hold on, where is she?”
I looked around and saw Scarlet on the other end of the bench, busy trying to feed Joe’s hog some bacon. The hog was trying to yank his head away from Scarlet, but Scarlet held firm, pulling his mouth open. Before she could shove a piece of bacon in his mouth, Joe ran towards the scene and pushed her away.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO POOR MAX?!?!?” Joe yelled louder than he ever had before. He placed himself between Scarlet and his hog. “It’s okay, buddy. Don’t eat anything that THAT LADY gives to you, okay? Good Max,” said Joe to Max. “And Scarlet? DON’T EVER LET ME CATCH YOU FEEDING MAX BACON AGAIN, OR ELSE!”
Scarlet laughed and rolled her eyes. “Or else what?”
“Um… I’LL MAKE YOU WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN!!!” Joe barked.
“I’d like to see you try,” Scarlet sneered, and Joe returned the glare.
“Let the battle begin!” King James announced. Thank you King James. I didn’t have to deal with the annoying arguments between Joe and Scarlet, but I had to admit, they were quite funny.
As Joe headed back towards his seat at the bench, Scarlet muttered under her breath, “So close” and slapped herself on her knee.
The opposing king, yes, the one dressed in red, began the game by pushing one of the buttons in front of his cannon. An Elixir Collector appeared behind his tower, and King James sent Violet behind his tower also. Then, he pulled one of the joysticks before him and a fireball came from the sky and severely damaged the enemy’s Elixir Collector. Then, King James told Scarlet to get on the Arena in front of Violet, and the opponent used a Mini P.E.K.K.A to counter the push, but Violet still survived to get a shot on the tower before she disappeared and respawned with Scarlet.
A few seconds later, the Elixir Collector disappeared and a Giant was sent in the corner of the enemy’s side of the Arena. By the time the Giant had reached the bridge, a Witch and a Skeleton Army were placed behind him.
King James zapped the Skeleton Army and called me along with four skeletons onto the Arena to take out the Giant. I took a deep breath and quickly dashed to the place I was instructed to go to. Before the Witch could target me and the skeletons, Scarlet was done with her break and ran in between the Giant and the Witch, inflicting damage to them both.
I died to the Giant, but after I respawned at the bench, I was glad to see that most of the enemy push had died down with me, and only a newly placed enemy Baby Dragon was left on the Arena, who was shot down by Violet. An enemy Mini P.E.K.k.A. was running down the other lane, but King James used Skeletons to counter him.
Then Scarlet and Joe were both sent in front of Violet, forming a fast-moving push. The opponent king tried to send a Skeleton Army on top of Violet and Joe while Scarlet was not in range, but King James quickly zapped the army. The enemy also tried to use a Witch, but it wasn’t enough to counter the entire push. The three of them made a perfect team and took down the first tower with ease.
The last minute of the game came, and I noticed that we were sent onto the Arena a lot faster. King James decided to defend for the most of the last minute, where he needed me to eliminate the Giants, the Mini P.E.K.KA.s, or sometimes the Witches. Near the end of the match, he sent another push containing Scarlet, Joe, and Violet and he cleared the second Princess’s tower. The match ended, and the enemy king was required to give King James about a thirty of his trophies (Gee, that’s a lot). My first battle resulted two towers to zero, much better than I had expected.
There were four more battles after the first one, and the wins seemed to come easy to me; except the last one, which we nearly lost. King James clapped twice the same way he did before, and we found ourselves back in the Main Room of the castle.
“You did great!” Hannah, the Princess, exclaimed to me, while setting aside her bow. The other members of the battle team congratulated me as well, until we were all dismissed to lunch and heading towards the kitchen. I was not trying to brag, but my first battles were actually pretty easy. Well, as King James and Violet had both said, Cannons were currently really powerful, and I hoped they were right about that.
After I received the meal from the kitchen, I walked inside the Cafeteria and scanned the area for someone to sit with. Where was Violet? I could only see Scarlet sitting at a table with some of her other friends, but Violet was nowhere to be found.
I set my meal at a seat beside Scarlet and meanwhile asked her if she knew where Violet was.
“She told me she was going to get a napkin. Don’t worry, she should be back soon,” said Scarlet. I trusted her and started poking at my food with my fork. After about two minutes, I got out of my seat and decided to look for Violet.
“Where’re ya going?” asked Scarlet. I told her what I had in mind, and she said okay.
I left the Cafeteria and quickly looked around at my surroundings. There were mostly just people traveling in packs, some alone, chatting and conversing about random topics. (Some were discussing about the new legendary warriors.) I received a few stares, but I ignored them all, knowing I was a building, and I wasn’t supposed to have feelings.
I walked further around the area and spotted Violet sitting in one of the corners, surrounded by four Barbarians. She looked bruised and on the verge of tears. Everyone who walked by just glanced at Violet and pretended as if she wasn’t there. I kept my distance too, as the Barbarians didn’t look too friendly, and I didn’t think Violet saw me. What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t really a good fighter, not to mention standing up to bullies.
“MAKE THAT A PROMISE!!” demanded one of the Barbarians who threw a kick at her side.
“Fine, I promise,” she choked out, voice full of regret. “I’ll speak to King James and tell him to let you guys take my place on the Battle Team. But please, whatever you do, don’t hurt my friends.”
“Well, now that you promised, you can’t back out. But you’re at our mercy right now, and who says we can’t beat up your friends also?” the second Barbarian laughed.
Behind me, a smoky gray robot with blue glowing horns and one glowing eye lightly pushed me aside. “Out of my way, sir,” the Mini P.E.K.K.A. said in a robotic voice. “I have a duty to do here,” he added, taking a bite into a pancake that he somehow found from nowhere. He walked to the scene where Violet was being mistreated, and he stuck out his sword, raising it towards the sky. I wasn’t sure if weapons were allowed here near the Cafeteria, but I didn’t object. After all, I hoped this was for good use.
The robot chased away the Barbarians, pointing his sword at their backs and later approached Violet.
“Hello, ma’am,” he said with the same monotone voice and helped Violet to her feet. She was a little shaky, but she later regained her balance.
“Oh, um. Thank you.” Violet brushed her skirt and turned a little pink.
“No problem. I’ll be there whenever you need me,” said the robot, hooking his sword back onto his belt. “Call me Hunter.”
“Violet,” she said. Violet and I headed back to the Cafeteria, and apparently, Hunter insisted that he come with us. He stopped by the kitchen to receive his lunch and seeing there was no way to reject his offer, we allowed him to sit with us.
When Scarlet asked about her bruises, Violet explained what had happened, and Scarlet simply nodded. The two of them plus Hunter had finished their meals, and they told me to meet them in the Game room. I hadn’t finished my lunch, so I tried to clear it as fast as I could.
As I was hurrying to get to the Game room, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going so I accidentally bumped into an Archer who just came in for lunch.
The food on her plate had spilled, and I quickly rushed to help her, grabbing napkins to clean it up. She had neon pink hair chopped above her shoulders and wore a hooded blue dress. This girl I ran into was no ordinary girl. Her hair was as smooth as silk, eyes as bright as sunshine, face as soft as snow, movements as graceful as a gazelle, and I couldn’t help but stare as her eyelashes fluttered while she was cleaning up the mess. Soon the mess was gone, and the Archer stood and shoved her hair out of her face.
“You’re Danny right? The king’s new cannon?” she asked me. Little did I know, but I was blushing really hard under my metal.
“Yep, that’s me,” I said with little hesitation.
“I heard you did really well earlier today at your first few battles. It was probably hard for you, considering the fact that you barely had any practice beforehand,” she said.
“Well… I guess, but I overcame the fright,” I replied.
“I’m glad you did,” she grinned. “You will have battles every Tuesday, I believe?”
“Okay, you don’t have to worry about the mess; I’m not really hungry anyway. My twin, Channary–she’s been infected by a disease. I have to leave the castle temporarily and go to the forest to find a particular type of berry that can heal her disease. Unfortunately, there are no doctors here anymore. I hope to see you around later then.” The Archer straightened her back and was about to leave, but she stopped mid-track. “Oh, and by the way, I’m Penelope, but you can call me Penny.” She turned to leave again, but I interrupted her before she could go.
“Wait, Penny!” I called.
“The forest isn’t a very safe place to be around alone, so…” I paused, “maybe I can accompany you?” I thought about how Violet had told me to meet her in the Game room, but I figured I could make some excuse for this later.
“Okay, then. Wait for me here,” she instructed. Penny left the area around the Cafeteria and was soon out of sight. She came back about a minute later with her hood on, a quiver of arrows slung on her back, and a bow in her right hand. “Just thought I needed to be prepared,” she smiled.
“Do you know the way out of this castle?” I asked.
“Yep, follow me,” Penny said confidently, and I followed her through a series of stairs and hallways, until we left the castle through one of the side exits.
The sky was entirely clear, other than the radiant sun that shone much brighter than the light blue emptiness. I adjusted my eyes to the change of light, and saw a wide expanse of grass covered with a few trees and plants, along with a shadier forest up ahead. There was a sandy path along the grass, leading to the forest.
“This way,” she said, running towards the forest and clutching onto her bow a little tighter. We entered the shady green of the pines, and Penny was bending down and examining each of the plants.
“You seem to know your way around here very well,” I commented.
“I guess I do. When I’m dying of boredom, I often visit the forest and practice some archery. I prefer to target the tree branches, however, rather than killing poor animals. My aim is decent, so too bad I don’t get to participate in the battles anymore,” she sighed, continuing to study the berries.
As she was kneeling down, I saw a black-hooded figure approaching, sneaking up behind Penny. I narrowed my eyes to check to see if I was hallucinating, and realizing I wasn’t, yelled in alarm.
“Hey, watch out!” I yelled. “There’s a bandit behind you!”
Penny loaded her bow and shot an arrow towards the hooded figure. The bandit dodged the arrow and charged at her, slamming her into a tree and making her drop her bow. A yelp of pain escaped her as the bandit beat her against the tree with a wooden club. Penny tried to kick at the bandit, but it stuck its knee into her stomach before she could make a move. She then produced a struggle and tried to wiggle her way out, but the bandit already had her pinned to the tree.
“Either give me everything you own or–” The female voice was interrupted when I grabbed a random apple and threw it at the bandit’s thigh, cutting her off. I immediately figured an unloaded cannon was useless.
“Let her go!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Keeping one arm on Penny, the bandit turned to me.
“A talking cannon?? I wonder how much that’s worth…” she spat. While the bandit was distracted, her grip on Penny slightly loosened. With this advantage, Penny turned and swung her elbow into the bandit’s ribs. The bandit slid back in alarm, rubbing the spot where she was elbowed. She got back on her feet and as quick as a snake, caught Penny on the leg with her club. The bandit advanced towards Penny again, but Penny was faster and kicked her in the side, causing the bandit to lose her balance. Realizing her victory, she quickly grabbed her bow, loaded it with an arrow, and directed it towards the bandit.
“Take off your mask,” she panted. “And reveal yourself.”
The bandit removed her mask as well as her hood, and I noticed she looked a whole deal like Penny. Same turquoise eyes, hair texture, and face features, only the bandit’s hair was dyed white.
Penny gasped, narrowed her eyes, and lowered her bow. “W-what? Ashley?? You’re still alive???”