Anodyne awoke from his rest; he found himself alone in Plo’s workshop. His tongue ran over his new teeth, feeling every ridge and polishing every surface with each pass.
“Not quite the same, not natural. These damn spores better work.”
Anodyne climbed out of his chair and made his way outside. The cavern walls curving down towards the tribal’s that inhabited the lands below.
“Life was so simple as a mortal; just spend each day surviving under the leader’s rule. Now, now everything is much harder. I just want to rest, but I can’t; I need to get my world back.”
Anodyne stared out over the tribal people with a cold blank expression; he raised his hand. He let loose a beam of energy, carving his symbol into the stone below him.
“No, I don’t want to rest. I want to burn the life out of the Risen god. I want to return to how I used to be. I am weak, but soon I shall be strong again. I just need to let the madness in.”
Anodyne began to grin as he finished carving his symbol. A crazed determination filled his eyes as he focused on his goal. Finally remembering what he had lost, he could focus on what he needed to regain. Plo emerged from her workshop, walking up behind Anodyne.
“Do you want to head out now?”
Anodyne turned to face her, eyes wide and mouth grinning.
“Let’s go to some fighting pits.”
Plo grabbed Anodyne’s shoulder, and they both disappeared. Reappearing in an enormous colosseum. All around them, other deities were teleporting in. Filling seats, they all awaited the next fight as the remains of the last one was cleaned up.
“This is one of many fighting pits. Anyone can enter; the reward depends on the severity of the fight. At the beginning of each fight, the announcer will call out the stakes; anyone who wants in jumps in.”
Anodyne looked around and the cheering masses; while some were clearly there to spectate, there were others that looked battle ready. Armored from head to toe, they brandished their weapons to show all around they were armed. Anodyne brought his short sword to hand, comparing it to those held by the fighters around him.
“Anodyne, I can see you look disappointed. Soul forging is hard; it requires a lot of souls. We will get you a better weapon; it will just take time.”
Anodyne stored his sword back into his pocket dimension.
“I am not disappointed in what I have compared to them; I am disappointed that I have forgotten what fighting is really about.”
“The demonstration of skills and resolve. A one on one where the winner wins because they are better than the other. I know weapons require skill, but it is not the same. Weapons make killing by accident possible; with unarmed, it is about how much you can take and how much you can throw back. The purest form of fighting.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself.” A deep voice rang in Anodyne’s ear. Behind him stood a grizzled old man covered in scars. He shook Anodyne’s hand before waving his other, silencing the crowds. His voice echoed through the entire Colosseum.
“Today, I have been reminded about the spirit of fighting; this next fight will pay homage to the old days of fighting. Two individuals will enter; one will leave a champion, the other a bloody mess left breathing on the ground. Left alive to remember that they will always be second to the other unless they get back in the ring, of course. No weapons, no armor, the prize.”
The old man raised his hand; in-betweenin between his fingers, he held a key.
“A key to the library, an item that requires more materials than the 17 quintillion of you have together.”
A huge uproar of cheers called from the crowds, armor, and weapons disappearing as those who were willing got ready to leap into the arena. All awaiting the final call from the old man.
“Looking around, I can see I have more than a few of you interested; instead of one on, one it will be a free for all. Everyone will enter, and you will fight till you can’t move. You will beat others till they can’t move, then you will move on. No deaths in this fight. The last one standing gets the key. Oh, and if your intent is to hide, it won’t work. I will know, and you will be ejected. With that, let us begin.”
Everyone started leaping into the arena; some were repelled by a barrier which left them standing in the stands.
“I warned you, those with intent on hiding will not be allowed in. We are here to relish in the purity of combat, not cheap tricks.”
The old man sat next to Anodyne.
“I am the one in charge around here; my name is Tama. Why aren’t you jumping into the pit? No risk, all reward. A fight tailored to your ideals.”
“I believe I mentioned one on one. Not a billion free for all.”
“looking closer to a quadrillion, actually. But I see your point.”
The old man stood up and made another announcement.
“While there will be many of you, you will only ever fight one on one. While ,dueling you will phase out of existence with everyone else. Meaning only the terrain and the one you are locked into combat with can affect you.”
He sat again next to Anodyne.
“How about now?”
Anodyne looked confused.
“Why are you so insistent that I enter?”
“Because I don’t like people that talk big about what they want, then when they are presented with what they want, they back out. I don’t want to see you become another spectator. I see fight in you, and I want to see it on the field. Now fight you spectating piece of shit.”
Anodyne got ready to strike Tama but resisted and focused on the pit.
“Yea, get mad. Get in that ring. Taste the glory of battle and claim your prize.”
Anodyne felt his anger well up inside him; he looked at all the others that were leaping in and sat on the verge of following. Tama leaned across and whispered.
“Don’t let them know you are a bitch.”
Anodyne leaped to his feet and launched himself into the arena, hitting the ground with a three-point landing. He looked back at Tama as he grinned.
“The arena is sealed, and the fight begins.”
The central part of the arena was surrounded by a shimmer that faded. A few more tried jumping in but were held back; some from the inside tried leaping out but were held in. Anodyne could feel his frustration and anger fading but reigniting as he was lifted from his feet with a swift punch to his gut. He recoiled from the pain but was quick to respond. Dispatching of the individual quickly.
“You have all come to rely on weapons and armor too much. The real fighting starts now.”
He made his way deeper into the arena before Anodyne woke up in the grandstands.
“Where, where am I?”
Plo was clutching her sides, laughing. “You got destroyed, you knocked someone over, then got knocked the fuck down.”
Tama was sitting nearby laughing as well.
“Do not take it personally, kid; there are a lot of gods here that have been fighting here since day one. You were never going to match up.”
Anodyne grabbed his head as he felt it throb.
“God damn, there is the pain. Why send me in if you knew I was going to lose?”
“Because I like to see people get pummelled into the dirt. That is why I own a fighting arena.”
Tama moved closer.
“You got flicked halfway across the arena too. Like a damn rag doll.”
Anodyne felt shame run across his face as he slumped over the chair in front of him.
“But I do agree with you. People have come to rely on weapons and armor too much. They are much softer than what they should be; the chick that hit you should have killed you. But she was too weak, too unconditioned to the harshness of battle, true battle.”
Anodyne stared at Tama with an inquisitive look.
“Why do I get the feeling that you are trying to offer me something?”
Tama grinned and took to his feet.
“Woah, battle smart and general smarts too. Yes, I am offering you something; I want to train you. Everyone here stares at the weapons and armor that pass through here. No one looked at the fighters; I watched as your eyes skimmed over the weapons and you gazed at the fighters. Judging their worth as opposed to admiring the worth of weapons.”
“As enticing as that is, I don’t need to know how to fight right now. I need someone to help me fight; I need to reclaim my world from an imposter; I need it back now; I don’t have time to train.”
Tama recoiled at Anodyne’s impatience.
“You know that in order to truly reclaim your home, you need to dominate your foe yourself. You would not have beaten them otherwise, simply skipped an issue and claimed the glory that hid behind it.”
“That glory you speak of are my children, all seven of them. They have been caged like animals and treated as such.”
Tama started to walk away.
“You want to show your children how to cheat a win, or do you want to show them how to take what you want from anyone who opposes you?”
Anodyne sat and let sadness overwhelm him.
“I can’t, though; I can’t beat this guy. He is simply better than me.”
“Then rise above, claim what you want. Don’t expect it to be easy because you are not owed anything. No one is ever owed anything; you have to fight for it, take it before someone else can. Be the better that others strive to be.”
Anodyne stood up and locked eyes with Tama. With determination in his eyes and a strong voice, he outstretched his hand.
“Train me then, get me to the point where I can conquer those who stand between me and what I desire.”
Tama grasped Anodyne’s hand.
“I won’t just get you to the point where you can conquer your enemies; I will get you to the point where you can enslave anyone you desire. I don’t want to train a conqueror; I want to train someone with ambition who wants more. Someone who won’t stop at destroying an enemy, someone who wants to find enemies and dominate them under their will. I want to get out of the fighting business; I want to be in the slave trade. That is where the real money is, but I need fresh blood; I need someone willing to put in the work.”
A grin grew across Anodyne’s face as he tightened his grip.
“You train me to enslave my foe, and I will help you enslave the entire Eternaverse.”