Chapter 3 - Zain

2.9K 118 14

"Two years ago I sent in this application, and I finally got something back. Guardian Eska must have seen my skills at the tournaments."

Zain Berrese sat on the leather couch of the apartment listening (half with a piqued interest and half with mild annoyance) to his friend Zakk Shiren. Their apartment had a huge main room with a kitchen located on the left side and carpeted rugs and even a fireplace. More importantly though, there was wall space. When they first moved in with each other five years prior, the walls had been white and bare. Now the walls were still white, but the space was anything but bare, and Zain couldn't help but notice all of Zakk's trophies as his best friend continued on.

"Guardian of the Core can do anything. Eska has his own power. Through Gazo's, I already know we're denied, but there I could gain a different power."

Could do anything? Could have power? Zain flexed his fingers, thinking of the possibilities. How Zain dreamed of having power, but he knew he couldn't cast. At the age of eighteen, he and Zakk were tested for power, as was every other Gazo's student. Neither had been found to be blessed, but both remained eligible to continue their standard training.

"I would constantly train. I would be able to protect people . . . people who need protecting. No one needs to go through what I went through," Zakk said.

"We have all lost someone . . ." Zain looked down at his right hand and flexed it.

"You didn't lose your family at the age of six though."

Doesn't mean that my loss was any less important. But Zain didn't say that; he figured that growing up without parents meant Zakk was never taught to be as respectful to people as he should. Or as modest. Zain looked to his collection that surmounted to nearly three-quarters of Zakk's accomplishments, accomplishments that would never have been possible without Zain and his family. He kept his gaze there, reminiscing about how their training at Gazo's started.  

When he met Zakk eighteen years ago, it was at a park in Konmer, Zain's hometown. From what Zain could remember, Zakk had seemed normal. But for six years, they only continued to stay in touch by picking a place to meet or Zakk saying he had been dropped off by his parents, who always seemed really busy. Little did Zain know at that point that it was all a lie.

In fact, Zain never found out until he mentioned his enrollment in Gazo's Premier Fighting Academy on his thirteenth birthday. Zakk had come over, along with Jarson and Lyle (both of whom joined a few years later, but Jarson was the only one to still continue in the program). Zain received one sword made of steel and one that had a leather grip. It was the ruby pommel that was most important to Zain though, because it was a symbol of his father's craftsmanship.

Zain's father had brought wooden swords for all the boys to play with, and during their friendly melee, Zakk pushed Zain down a hill and pounced on top of him, hitting him three times with the wooden sword. "Why do you have everything?" One stroke. "Why can't I have what you have?" Second hit. Harder this time. There was a shift from horseplay to outright hostility. "Why do you have family?" Zakk hit him the third time, then he collapsed and started crying.

Zain wasn't hurt; he had learned roughhousing with his older brother, Jamaal, but he was confused. "What are you talking about?"

And that is when the truth spilled—how Zakk's parents had been murdered in the Konmer Killings, where a group of five men killed over twenty people with swords and axes and fists, how Zakk had been living at his home until people came and kicked him off the vacant property, taking him into child custody. His foster parents cared nothing for him; they simply took him for a tax advantage. They hardly gave him food, but they gave him a roof and water in exchange for an occasional hit or chore. Zakk confessed to even stealing food from Zain's family when he could so that he wouldn't starve.

The Trials of the Core (GotC #1)Read this story for FREE!