Chapter 12 - A Look Around

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Zain looked from the glass window with scarlet drapes on the other side of the dining hall to the chicken broth that sat before him on a table that could seat fifty and no more. The mountains were in the distance, and Freyr and Lugh were an arm's length apart from each other in the sky. What was here for him? Was there really power that could bring Ava back?

He steadied his hand by scooping a spoonful of chicken broth and swallowing it. Across the table, Gabrielle conversed with Cain, and Hydro conversed with the senator. Beside him, he heard Eirek and Cadmar talk. But there was no one for him to talk to. Not anymore. Dammit, Zakk.

His stomach roiled, dissolving his appetite. Abruptly he left the table. Only one entity could know what Zain was going through—his sword. It was a Gazo's-issued sword provided to him once he had outgrown the one his father gave him when he first enrolled. It had been there through the tournaments; it had seen why he needed to do what he did to Zakk. His friend would have won, again, but Zain needed to. For Ava. But now . . . now it was complicated. Who was he really fighting for now?

Zain strolled down the hallway from the dining room and took note of a variety of rooms. He assumed they were servant rooms. One corridor led to a stained-glass door that prevented anyone from seeing inside. I wonder where that leads? He still hardly knew the place; he needed to find someone who could help him locate any training facilities. 

In the lobby, Zain found a servant sweeping out dust and dirt that had rolled in from outside. The servant's skin was dark, although lighter than Zain's. "Excuse me, sir."

The man stopped and looked up. "Yes?" He smiled. 

"Does Guardian Eska have any training facilities here?"

"Go down this hall . . ." The man pointed back in the direction that Zain had come. "At the end of it, take a left. Keep to the left when the hallway splits, and you will find a circular room. There will be a steel door that leads to the facility."

"Thanks." Zain went to his room to assemble his training gear.

Easily enough he found the room, and upon entering, he saw the steel door the man talked about. He tugged on the handle, but it was locked. Great.

"Do you have an appointment?"

Zain looked to his right to see an old man with liver spots and receding gray hair hunched over a microphone behind a glass window.

"No." Zain walked toward the man, confused.

"I will get you set up then, sir. May I have your name?"

"Zain Berrese."

"Barase, Barase . . . there is no Barase who's supposed to be here."

"No. Bur-eh-say"

"Could you spell that?"

"B-E-R-R—"

"Ah, Berrese. Found it. I will meet you in the next room. The steel door is open now."

The old man waddled to a door located on the side wall. Zain retreated to the steel door and gawked as he entered the large space. This is a habitat arena, just like Gazo's. It was empty now, but Zain knew that environments could be uploaded and then trained in. It provided experience in different terrains. Safe, efficient training against opponents took the form of holograms that thought and acted on their own accord. At Gazo's, graduates from the academy were asked permission to upload their data so that future students may train like a graduate. When Zain made it to the point of fighting more than standard enemy holograms, he challenged Baron Gaul, his trainer at Gazo's, when he was no older than Kendel's age.

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