There was nothing. It felt empty. There was nothing to feel, nothing to think, nothing to understand, nothing, nothing…
“Hey. Ignatius. Hello… Anyone one home…?”
Silence followed in this emptiness.
“Yo! Ignatius Links! WAKE UP!!”
Suddenly, as though someone threw water in his face, Ignatius opened his eyes in alarm. For a moment he couldn’t see. Everything was covered in pitch blackness. Then a light shone directly on top of him and blurred his vision. He covered his eyes and turned away from the light. He blinked furiously to focus his eyes once more. Now that his vision focuses, he realised he was sitting with a light shone while complete darkness surrounding outside the light.
“Yo!” a man said and he suddenly materialised in front of him.
Ignatius yelled and jerked at the sudden appearance of the man. Seeing who it was, he relaxed and said “Oh, it’s just you, Furon.”
Furon, the previous legendary warrior of flames, stood with his full body armour of red flames. He stood with his arms crossed and wore an annoyed expression on his face as he looked down at Ignatius.
“Yes, Furon. That’s me. Just as the name says, I’m furious!”
“Wow!” Ignatius said as he raised his hands in front of him in a gesture of peace. Then he rose to his feet and said “Calm down Furon. What’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter, you ask?” Furon said and snorted angrily. “Just take a look around you!”
Ignatius did so and as he looked, he only saw darkness engulfing their surroundings. There wasn’t anything interesting except that a brilliant glow of light shown where they stood. Although it mystified him, it wasn’t what Furon asked him to do. So, after a little more looking around, Ignatius felt there wasn’t anything interesting and turned back to Furon to report.
“There’s… nothing to look at. It’s total darkness.”
“Yes, it is.”
There was a pause in which they continued to stare at each other. Then, feeling puzzled over Furon’s annoyance, he decided to ask.
“Why are you so annoyed, Furon?”
Furon sighed and looked at Ignatius seriously.
“Do you know where you are right now?”
Ignatius turned around and, again, checked the surroundings. He thought he knew where this was. Then he suddenly got the urge to pull a prank on Furon. He then faced him and spoke.
“The world of nothingness?”
Furon instantly landed a blow to the top of Ignatius’s head. Clutching his head, Ignatius whimpered as pain coursed from the top of his head to the rest of his body. Then he looked up at Ignatius indignantly.
“Why’d you hit me for?”
Furon looked unimpressed and said “This is no time for jokes. It’s very serious!”
Furon’s face was very serious and Ignatius suddenly realised it as well. There was something strange about his surroundings. All this darkness swirling around, this feeling of emptiness is not what he usually felt when he ended up here.
“This is my mind… right?”
Ignatius said, although it sounded more like a question, and he quickly covered his head. He feared he might get another bang on his head if he got it wrong. Furon nodded, although, he made a small smile at Ignatius’s attempt to protect his skull.
“So… what’s the problem?”
“The problem is… your consciousness is connected to the world of emptiness.”
“Me… my consciousness is connected to the world of… emptiness?”
“How… how did that happen?” Ignatius asked with apprehension.
“Remember? You fainted from the painful effects of Spirit Force. Since then there has been a great length of time you didn’t wake up. It is also because Spirit Force drained a lot of your life force, that your consciousness started to dive deeper into the realm of darkness.”
“I see. So, that’s how I ended up in this kind of situation. Makes sense, but what do I do to stop it?”
“Simple,” Furon said and smiled. “Use Spirit Burst and wake up.”
“WHAT?!” Ignatius exclaimed in disbelief. “Seriously?! Use Spirit Burst… now?!”
“Yes, now,” Furon said and he sounded exasperated. “If you don’t, you’ll regret it.”
As if in response to what he said, the diameter of the light they stood under started to shrink. Panicked, Ignatius tried his best to stay in the centre of the circle of light.
“What’s going on?!” Ignatius asked with a worried face.
“The deeper your consciousness dives, the more it becomes consumed and, once you are completed consumed by the darkness, you die.”
“You’re already seeing the effects.”
Ignatius understood, without knowing how, that he felt he was fading. He looks at his hands and suddenly realised they were becoming transparent. No, to be more accurate, he was becoming transparent. His entire body was dissolving and he suddenly felt giddy in the head. Stumbling, Ignatius knew his only option out of this serious problem was to use Spirit Burst.
“Ok! I’ll do it!”
“That’s my boy!” Furon shouted with gusto. “Now remember how spirit burst is used. Pull up all your latent power and make it explode!”
Ignatius proceeded to clap his hands together. Then he started screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH” and his power suddenly erupted all around him. He closed his eyes while the magnitude and force of the power grew higher and higher around him along with the intensity of his scream. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and yelled.
“Spirit Burst, explode!!”
In an instant, white light erupted from all around and dispersed all the darkness. The light was so intense it engulfed Ignatius and Furon where they stood. Through the light the scream of Ignatius could still be heard as all darkness was vaporised.
Then, his eyes flew open. For a moment he wasn’t sure where he was or what he was doing. Then, as his sense returned, he realised he was lying on top of a comfortable bed. He slowly got to a sitting position and looked around. It seemed as if he was in a room decorated with nothing but white paint. There were chairs and desk near the windows through which the sun shone through to brighten the room with it swarm glow.
“I’m… awake…” he muttered and he lifted his hands to check them.
He flexed his hand as if he did not use his hands in a long time. Then he tried moving his body slightly, but felt pain so he stopped. He wondered if everything that happened just now was a dream; his consciousness diving deep into the depths of darkness, Furon urged him to use Spirit Burst or he will die and then using Spirit Burst to raise his energy and making it explode to finally wake up.
“Was that… a dream?”
“It certainly wasn’t!” said a cheerfully voice.
There he was, floating in midair in a semi-transparent like spirit. Furon was grinning as he watched Ignatius turn to look at him. He winked at Ignatius and he started to grin.
“Why didn’t you wake me up sooner if I was diving so deep into the depths of darkness?”
“You wouldn’t wake up,” Furon said, looking worried. “No matter what I did, you’re conscious wouldn’t respond. So I had to use some part of my force to forcibly stop the darkness from eating you until you woke up. But you were running out of time by the time you stirred.”
Ignatius was looking down and muttered “So… I nearly died.”
Just then the door, to the room, opened and Carter walked in. He froze when he saw Ignatius sitting upright on the bed. He wore a blank expression, but, that soon changed to extreme happiness as tears swelled in his eyes.
“Ignatius! You’re awake!!” he shouted and he flung himself at him.
“Ouch!” Ignatius said as Carter hugged him tightly. “Ease up, Carter. You’re… crushing me!”
“Oh, sorry,” Carter said, moving away from him with tears in his eyes while smiling widely.
As Carter, stood at his bedside, two more people walked up to them. One was a man and the other was a female. Both were wearing white clothes while the man wore a stethoscope around his neck and glasses perched on his nose. They were smiling in relief at seeing their patient showing healthy signs.
“It’s good to see you, Mr. Ignatius,” the doctor said. “We were worried. You wouldn’t wake up for almost a week.”
“A… a week?!” Ignatius exclaimed in disbelief with wide eyes. “I’ve been out for… that long?!”
“That’s right,” the doctor said. “In fact, your life energy had started to deplete as the week progressed by checking the life energy reader over there.”
Then he indicated to the pulse monitor to the side. Ignatius turned and saw a wave line was being drawn as he observed it. He didn’t understand what it’s about, but understood it’s some sort of device that tracks a patient’s life energy.
“We were extremely worried when your life energy started to deplete. You wouldn’t wake up and then this, we were certain you would die at that rate. Then, suddenly, here you are sitting upright and smiling as if nothing had happened. It’s a mystery in itself…”
Ignatius laughed, scratched the back of his head, although it looked like a forced laugh.
“Well,” the doctor said, sitting on the stool next to Ignatius. “Let me have a look at you to see if you’re alright.”
The doctor used a few methods in checking signs for any abnormalities in Ignatius. After a few minutes, he nodded and stood up once more with a smile on his face.
“I’ll give you a clean bill of health. However, rest since you’ve been unconscious for a week.”
Then the doctor and the nurse left the room, leaving Ignatius and Carter present. Carter took and stool and sat on it, staring worriedly at Ignatius. Ignatius was suddenly reminded of his overprotective mother.
“Sorry I made you worry,”
“No problems, but… tell me. Did the ancient warrior of flames, Furon, speak to you?”
“More than speak, he forcibly woke me up. Then he made me do something completely crazy. There’s no way I wouldn’t wake up from doing that!”
“Yes, I did,” Furon said as he floated around. “Otherwise, you’d be dead right now.”
Carter looked up at Furon’s spirit form and said “Give it a break, Furon.”
Ignatius laughed and then stopped. His eyes suddenly opened wide and he stared at Carter in shock.
“You… you can see him now?!” he asked in disbelief.
“Ah… yes,” Carter said with a nod of his head.
“Wow,” Ignatius said. “Since when did you… wait… is it… the spirit of metal?”
“You guessed it!” Furon said cheerfully.
“Oh, right!” Ignatius said, sounding as if he realised something. “You are now the legendary warrior of metal. Congratulations!”
“Thank you, but… don’t be formal, Ignatius,” Carter said with a smile. “We’re both legendary warriors.”
Ignatius laughed and said “I guess that’s true.” Then he asked “By the way, have you talked with your ancient warrior of metal? What was his name again?”
“The metal head’s name is Megatol,” Furon said. “And no, he decided not to talk with Carter yet. He and I decided to wait for you to awaken. Then we’ll go through things together. Like a team, wouldn’t you say?”
“I see,” Ignatius said with an amused look on his face. “Thank you for waiting for me, Furon.”
Furon simply nodded, but grinned anyway. Then Ignatius and Carter talked about the events within the past week. It seemed the restoration of the city took two to three days. After that, people continued with their lives as if nothing had happened. However, there is the news of rewarding the brave fighters responsible for defeating the monster that rampaged through their city.
“Oh, right, before I forget,” Carter said, sounding as if he just remembered something. “Your family made contact with me a few days ago.”
“What did they say?”
“Your mother wanted you to return home immediately.”
“She went on and on about how dangerous your travels would be. Then how soft you are and that you need someone to always protect you. She was really concerned about you, you know.”
“Mummy…” Ignatius said and made an exasperated face.
“However, your dad was cool.”
“My dad? What did he say?”
“Well, first it sounded like they had a scuffle through the receiver. Then he came on and you can continue on your journey. Apparently he was really impressed by you defeating the mutated spirit of metal all by yourself.”
“Well… I had help in that department,” Ignatius said, but wore a pleased expression on his face.
Carter smiled to his friend, knowing his family are worrying for him.
Then Ignatius said “Thank you, Carter, for handling my parents.”
“No worries,” Carter said cheerfully. “I finally got the chance to speak with the parents of Mr. Crazy.”
“Ah… Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?!” Ignatius exclaimed indignantly and they both laughed.
A few days later Ignatius was released from the hospital. He felt slightly weak and Carter helped him move around and it wasn’t long before Ignatius regained the full use of his legs after that. Then the day came when Ignatius was congratulated and rewarded with the “Defender” title in front of a large audience. Ignatius couldn’t believe he was standing there, shaking hands with the city mayor, while being watched by countless number of people. However, unpleasant news was delivered to them later that day in the mayor’s office.
“Disqualified… from the… tournament?!” Ignatius said as if he couldn’t believe what he just heard.
“That’s right,” the mayor said with his hands together. “Additionally, five years of prohibition from entering the parameter of the city.”
“But… why?” Ignatius asked, sounding concerned. “Why, sir? Why go so far to punish him? He didn’t do anything wrong.”
The mayor sighed and said “The monster that nearly levelled the city is that of the mutated spirit of metal. I can understand it had nothing to do with young Mr. Mortis even though he was the one meant to unite with it. It is unfortunate these events unfolded. However, the fact remains; it is the spirit of metal which now harbours within Mr. Mortis. That is why; this has to be done with regards to the demands of the people.” Then he sighed and said “People aren’t happy their places were destroyed, all because of one silly mistake.”
“I… see…” Ignatius said slowly. He looked at Carter, who had his head down with a depressed expression. Then, coming to a decision, he said “Then, sir, please issue the same thing to me.”
“What?” they exclaimed in disbelief.
Carter was stunned by Ignatius and asked his friend “Ignatius… what are you doing?”
“I am the legendary warrior of flames. It was I who fought against and defeated the mutated spirit of metal. If only I was stronger, if only I was more powerful, I could’ve stopped it. But I failed and, from our battle, the city took a heavy beating. So, I am equally responsible for creating this mess! So please… put me under the same restriction as my best friend.”
They stared at him with their mouths open. They could not believe what they had just heard. Carter was also staring at Ignatius as if he was not sure what to say or do. After a moment’s pause, the mayor pulled himself together and coughed, returning the normal order within the room.
“Are you certain you are fine with this?” he asked and Ignatius nodded.
“Wait!” Carter said. “You can’t do this. Ignatius saved the city from that huge monster.”
“Yeah, right!” Ignatius said sarcastically. “I did such a great job that the city was worse off than it would’ve been.”
“But still…” Carter said, having difficulty fighting the present predicament.
“Very well, I understand,” the mayor said with a curt nod.
With that, both Carter and Ignatius bowed their heads to him before taking their leave. On their way out, Carter was staring at Ignatius intently. Ignatius realised his staring and asked him “Why are you staring at me?”
“Tell me Ignatius. Why did you do it?” Carter asked.
“Why? You mean, from earlier?”
“Ah… well… you know how it is like with best friends.”
“No, I don’t…”
“Oh geez,” Ignatius sighed. “I’m also equally to blame for that one. I did fight the monster and our battle did do a lot of damage.”
“But that’s the reason, is it?” Carter asked with a serious.
They had stopped walking and stood facing each other. Carter looked at Ignatius with a serious expression Ignatius, on the other hand, simply looked Carter before letting out a roar of laughter.
“Carter… you take things way too seriously.”
“What’s being serious have to do with anything?”
“Simple. You’re missing the one point. You’re my best friend. What good would it do me in this vast city full of mysteries if I don’t enjoy it with my best friend?”
“You… you consider me as you’re… best friend?” Carter asked. “You really consider me like that?”
“Of-course!” Ignatius said brightly. “Best friends are for life! That’s my belief, no matter what anyone tells me otherwise!”
“But, the tournament,” Carter said desperately. “You were looking forward to it, right?”
“Ah! The tournament can come later,” Ignatius said cheerfully. “Whether I participate today or in say, five years doesn’t matter. The tournament will always be there as long as fighters from across the world compete to decide the best.”
“I guess so.”
Carter was looking slightly depressed, although a happy expression could be seen. Then, as if he thought of something, he suddenly looked up at Ignatius, looking serious.
“Ignatius. I’m not gay, ok? I don’t swing that direction.”
“Gay?” Ignatius asked with a puzzled expression. “What’s a ‘gay’?”
Carter’s eyes opened wide and his facial expression was that of disbelief.
“You don’t know?!” he exclaimed.
“No,” Ignatius said, continuing to look puzzled.
Carter walked over to Ignatius and whispered something in his ear. A few seconds later, Ignatius’s eyes widen in shock as Carter withdrew. Then Ignatius made wild attempts with his hands in front of him.
“Na-na-na-na-no!” Ignatius was saying, looking flustered. “I’m… I’m not like that! I’m… straight… serious!”
“I believe you,” Carter said in a low voice.
An awkward silence stretched between them as they avoided looking at each other. Then, trying to break the silence, Ignatius continued speaking in a forced cheerful manner to change the subject.
“When we return, we should discuss things with our respective ancient warriors.”
“I see.” Carter said, nodding in understanding. “Good idea. I’d like to learn more things about the spirit of metal anyway.”
“Then it’s settled!” Ignatius said cheerfully. “Let’s meet later in my room and discuss.”
“Sure!” Carter said, brightening up.
With that, Carter and Ignatius walked out of the building into the bright glow of the sunlight waiting for them outside.