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    Solus Magus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

From Nescience - 5. Mateo: Survivor

Beads of sweat slid down my face as I did the seventh form of the sword style my Tio taught me. My arms were sore, and the soles of my feet were thick with callouses from all the foot movements required in doing the forms. I never understood why he was adamant about training me and Izan in the way of the sword. But years of doing it had built the discipline I needed to do it every afternoon after school.

He intently watched on the other end of the room while reading his daily newspaper. And he seemed to be content with what I was doing. Displeasing him would be a fatal mistake. It meant a strike to the thigh or some other form of physical punishment. But sometimes, whether we did good or not, we get hit anyway. That was just how things were.

Tio was often talkative and had a lot of negative side comments but would always fall silent whenever I would do my forms. His eyes were full of wrath and judgment. Fire would almost pour out of them from how he stared at every muscle fiber I was moving.

Perfection. It was all that he was after. And it was everything I was not. He ensured that many times as we grew up inside his home. He would berate me for not being perfect, whether it was my grades or training. Izan was not that lucky, either. He had his share of getting hit as well. Whether something was his fault or not, Tio would simply hit him out of spite.

“You two!” My Tio’s voice boomed from the side. My muscles clenched, and my heart almost stopped. My mind raced and checked what mistakes have I made to provoke his anger. Both Izan and I were frozen in our tracks. “Do your weekly duel now.”

“But—” My little brother objected. Tio’s arm went so fast to smack my little brother’s face. I had to use a lot of energy to hold myself back. The blood in my veins almost exploded with his smack.

“I did not ask for your opinion, you imbecile.” Tio erupted. His face frowned even further. Even I couldn’t look at my brother. “Do what you’re told, joto. No questions asked. You have no right to do that as long as you live here.”

We grudgingly walked towards the center, where we met and bowed. It was a ritual of sportsmanship. Then I slowly stepped back, allowing a more prominent space between us. I forced my breathing to be more steady since I was gripped by what happened. The first person I wanted to hit was my Tio. But he was way better than us. It wouldn’t end well if we did.

It was an unfair fight, supposedly, since I was two years older. My muscles were more developed. I was more experienced. But the sword style Tio taught us was not dependent on raw strength. I had almost mastered Hajin Jzo, a very defensive swordsmanship style. It was also weird that I never heard of it anywhere on Earth. After watching various martial arts videos, I realized some of our moves were seemingly borrowed. At the same time, it was also original. Almost otherworldly.

Tio walked around our vast living room. His house was our ancestral home since we were the fourth generation. Our great-grandparents moved into the southern part of the States. The whole property was spacious and had high walls, almost like a mini-mansion. I’d also say we were well off since we never struggled financially.

As Izan and I slowly moved toward the center, where we usually did occasional sparring matches, we gripped our wooden swords gracefully. We assumed our default stance, pointing the blade’s tip toward the opponent with both hands near our cheeks.

Tio taught us three different sword styles. I focused on the defensive stance, which was the Hajin Jzo. Izan, on the other hand, concentrated on mastering the Inazumonji, a fast offensive style that utilizes broad strokes and uses momentum to increase speed over consecutive attacks gradually. Both of us had a good mastery over both styles of fighting.

He also taught the Vahnkien, but we never had a good mastery because Tio suddenly stopped teaching more of it. That style was focused on waiting and using counterattacks to get the upper hand. It was the perfect middle ground to switch from Hajin Jzo to Inazumonji. Unlike most martial arts on Earth, the three styles can mix quite well.

We were left by our Papa with our Tio when we were kids. He would visit us every once in a while and had a bad injury every single time. Once he healed, he would also teach us more about Vahnkien and other sword styles he refused to name. Based on my observation, Vahnkien was Papa’s expertise.

I saw him duel Tio once. And he won by a large margin. His timing was top-tier. Each counter-hit was almost flawless. Every stroke of the wooden sword was fluid from defense and switched quickly to offense.

We always look forward to when he comes back. Tio was a lot calmer when he was around. Neither Izan nor I would dare snitch how terrible our Tio would treat us. Yet Papa would try his best to spend time with Izan and me by telling us stories about magic and an alternate universe called Altimeraea. He would often mention how many magical creatures of different sizes existed. His stories about Altimeraea were never-ending. Papa even told us that he had this giant blue ice dragon that he could summon and help him fight off bad guys.

I knew it was not real, though. It was just to keep Izan and me entertained while he was around. Yet sometimes, I wish it was true. It could be our escape away from this scary place. A land of mythical creatures sounded a lot better than staying in this hell hole.

These lessons also gave us a clue that our Papa was in some sort of secret organization. I could clearly remember when he would sound cryptic about a threat coming, and we must be prepared for it. That’s why he was adamant in ensuring we learned ways to defend ourselves. Izan and I often joked about it, but we also both knew there was a hint of truth in his words.

Papa comes and goes in our lives. It was really our Tio who took care of us since we were kids. And he was not really doing an excellent job out of it. I honestly felt more like a slave than his nephew. Then two years ago, Papa stopped coming home. Tio never explained why or how, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was gone for good. Like…dead.

Yet a part of me was hopeful. I won’t believe it until I see it for myself.

Ever since the year that Papa stopped coming, I would see that blue dragon he would describe in my dreams. It had a very long body and had more than one pair of wings. It’s gigantic, and the first pair of wings were more extensive than the other ones. Most of the scales were blue and white. Overall, it was majestic. My body would feel cold like the dragon could freeze everything it touched. But in my dreams, I was never able to come close to it. I’d only see it from afar. That’s why I never had the privilege to see it in its full glory. The gigantic creature would just watch from a distance before disappearing.

All I knew was I was in awe every time it did visit me in my dreams.

We also never met our Mama. All Papa would tell us was that she should not be involved in our lives. And that we should never look for her no matter what. It felt like a taboo topic even for my Tio. Since it was impossible for him to be in a good mood, I never pondered the subject with him.

Of course, that sparked a curiosity within me. And I would also try to look for her.

My mind was snapped out of memory lane as Izan made his movements towards me. He went in my range headstrong with a series of fluid sword swipes and sweeps. His footwork advanced smoothly with each stroke of the wooden sword. It amazed me how his spins were flowing like water. My feet slid back slowly as I had my guard up, deflecting each strike successfully. My movements were minimal and conservative. Since I also knew Inazumonji well, parrying it was easy.

But my little hermano was not easy to give up. His attacks were progressively getting faster. It was a typical trait of that fighting style since it builds momentum and uses speed as its source of strength. Yet Hajin Jzo was also its counter because it neutralizes that build-up. Izan was not showing it, but it was slowly straining him to keep up with the barrage of attacks.

As we exchanged strikes against one another, I noticed Tio already left the room.

He made a feint that was the opening I was looking for. A fake attack often had a weak grip because it reserved its strength for the next one. Since Izan was almost at his limit, I expected him to conserve his stamina within the next few strikes. I quickly switched to the Vahnkien stance and went for that opportunity. My sword slammed against his that, barely held up any resistance. His wooden blade was almost thrown out of his grip. The counter was perfect. I closed in for the kill and hit his wrist with a circular stroke. A typical attack from Inazumonji. That was more than enough for him to release his weapon and shriek in pain and surprise.

“Hey! That was cheating!” He exclaimed loudly. His eyes were wide open. Izan was visibly disheartened by the quick swipe. “I almost had you!”

“No. You were careless.” I retorted, then stuck my tongue out, annoying him further. My head slowly tilted up to make it look like I was staring down at him. And I saw how it was very influential on his temper. “That was a redeemable mistake.”

“How?” He asked in rhetoric, both hands in the air. His face was animated and frustrated. Even his cheeks were slightly red despite the tan skin. “You almost had my sword disarmed with the first strike!”

“You were so bent on using just one style. I’d quickly backed away from that and switched to Hajin Jzo.” I explained nonchalantly as I walked toward where the cookies were. My wrists automatically spun my sword around to cool down my muscles. “We’re mastering almost three forms of fighting because it was meant to be used together.”

“Whatever.” Izan groaned as he walked toward the wooden stick. His frown was adorable because he looked like a kid who lost his candy. My brother still had a long way to go. “I’ll get you someday.”

“You need a cooler head.” I snickered. He shot me a death stare, so I stuck out my tongue again. Izan looked away with a baffled look. “And you also need a lot more practice with Hajin Jzo. Inazumonji is a strong stance. But it cannot survive on its own. Just like the others.”

“You’re sounding more like Papa.” He muttered. Partly like an insult. Partly in mourning. He still taught us a lot of things. “Always saying something wise.”

“I guess that’s a good thing then.” I replied softly. Being called wise was mostly welcomed. But being compared to Papa was something I’m not sure I could settle down with. “Who knew I could be wise someday? My grades are usually awful for some reason.”

“As long as you don’t leave me, I’m good.” He grinned at me. His light brown eyes went big like a puppy. But his wavy dark hair, like mine, was shiny with sweat. Making him look like a puppy who just finished playing in the dirt.

“Oh, please. You’ll die without me!” I chuckled. He walked near me to grab some cookies, so I reached out to ruffle his hair. “Of course, I won’t leave you. I need an imbécil in my life.”

Izan laughed and playfully pushed me back. He knew what I meant. We need a few who genuinely love us in a lonely world like ours. And it’s a bonus if those people are family. At least I didn’t have to suffer this hell alone. Izan was there.

And he was the only person important to me. No one else.

Our skirmish ended, and I quickly showered after eating the snacks my Tio left on the table. The monster was very strict with everything but never failed to provide. He was not lazy. Everything was clean, and he had made sure we looked after ourselves. There was a family business that he had inherited, and it always kept him busy. Those were small opportunities when we could slack off every once in a while.

Thankfully, Izan was quite competitive. I couldn’t get caught slacking, or else he’ll beat me to a duel if he wanted to. But I had to protect my default superiority as the older brother. That was my job. I have to set the standard because we will soon face the dangers out there. My mind had been set, and so was his. It had been planned for many months.

Izan and I will run away so the monster can’t reach us anymore. Then we will look for Papa. Before, we could not bring ourselves to let him know. Not this time. We’d go with him wherever he’d take us. It was all or nothing. And it was our only hope. Our freedom must be fought for.

When I heard the car leave through the property gates, I swiftly went to my drawer and took out my secret phone. I dialed my friend’s number and waited for a few rings before someone answered.

[Hey there!] A voice greeted back on the other line. Warm and friendly as always. Chico was somewhere in Southern Flordia, and he was our landing spot for our great escape. [What can I do for you, amigo?]

[Everything is set, man. We’ll pack up tomorrow morning.] I replied stiffly. It was almost the moment of truth, after all. The very decisive point of our plans. If we screwed up, only God knows what will happen to me. [I just need to make sure you’ll be there for us when we arrive.]

[Yea, sure, man. Don’t worry about that at all.] He promised firmly. I swear he would have shaken my hand if it had been in person. [You’ve sent the payment, right? My aunt is strict with the rent.]

[Yea.] I confirmed. The day before, I detoured from school and made a deposit to a bank account that he provided. It was months of saving from my allowance, so we had a downpayment for the rent. But Chico already introduced me to a friend where we can do part-time jobs to pay for our everyday needs. It would be a monumental adjustment for Izan and me. But it was still better than getting beaten up regularly. [My Tio’s business trip is tomorrow. We’ll leave in the afternoon. Which means we should arrive there two days from now.]

[Okay, I see it now.] Chico responded. He was probably checking it from his computer or something. Another thing I could mark off on my checklist. [Great!]

[I’ll call you when we arrive at the airport.] I told him. Chico had his own car and would be the one who would pick us up and drop us off at our new place. Then we work our asses off right away after that. He mentioned that there were a lot of paid errands that could be done in our neighborhood. [Is our place to stay all set?]

[Of course!] He chirped. Chico was almost too gleeful. Or maybe I was just too nervous. The plans would sometimes keep me up all night. And I was fearful of how it could screw up anytime. [Just keep me updated, amigo. You have wanted this for a long time now. You’re almost there.]

[Yeah. You’re right.] I agreed. It sounded so reassuring. Very sweet to my ears even. Chico was an online friend I made while playing games. He was a few years older and was a runaway. I ended up confiding in him, and he offered to help me do the same thing he did. [I’ll always be indebted to you.]

[No problemo!] Chico replied. I couldn’t help but imagine his cute smile on the other side of the line. There were a few instances when we did a video call and even jerked off in front of each other. Like me, he was also into guys. But never was there romance between us. He was just a jerk-off buddy. And I was pretty excited because we planned to fuck the first week we got there. [I’m just helping out an amigo. That’s it.]

[Anyway, I have to go. I’ll see you in two days.] My last sentence was almost like a dream. Even my cock jerked softly inside my underwear. I never knew I’d have the guts to finally do something about it. Izan and I will slip away, and there should be no going back.

[Yes! See you soon, man.] He retorted before ending the call.

When I placed my secret phone inside the drawer, my soul almost left my body as I saw the blue dragon suddenly appearing inside the mirror. My eyes shot open, and my hand slapped my face to ensure I did not see things. But the dragon in my dreams was there, facing me. The bluish-and-white color of its scales was marvelous. It was everything how I imagined it would be.

Mateo Rodriguez. The dragon said with a roaring voice. Deep and scary. Yet it spoke directly in my head. It was almost unreal. Maybe it really was not all real. Refrain from proceeding with your plans.

“Huh?” I asked.

You are more protected inside this city. The thing instructed. Its icy blue eyes that had reptilian slits stared at me. Unmoving and unbothered. But for some reason, I don’t feel angry or anything form of threat. All I felt was worry. Trust me.

“Wait. W-what are you?” I stammered. The mere presence of whatever it was permeated the room. My hair all over my body stood up. “How do you know me?”

I am your father’s protector. His Eidolon. And I am now yours, too. The dragon assured me with its mighty voice. At that point, I was still confused about whether it was a dream. The vibe of the room dropped to zero degrees. Mateo, you need to endure the beatings a little longer. But never leave this place until it’s time.

Before I could act in response, the image faded. And I was alone in my room.

It could be a figment of a twisted guilt. There was no way we would stop our plans. Perhaps it was just a weird trance or daydream from all this anxiety for the next day. Or maybe I’m just losing it. Tio had hit my head many times over throughout the years. The first screw finally got lost, and I’m just going crazy.

I fell on the bed and thought deeply about the plans. I went over the plans again a hundred times that afternoon. An hour may have passed my head was still buried under my pillow. I was slowly getting obsessed with the things that may go wrong. It even got worse after that freaky vision with the dragon.

It said that there was danger waiting for me out there.

But I realized the dragon was right. There was danger out there. It was unavoidable. That was just the reality of life. Danger lurked everywhere we went. If we’re too afraid to go out there, then we are never ready to leave in the first place. Maybe the dragon just represented the fear I needed to conquer. It was just a metaphor for the things that raced in my head.

A smile escaped my lips. My mind was determined even more than ever. The next day was the day we would seize our freedom. It was all or nothing.

“Hey there.” My door swung open, and Izan entered with a wary smile.

“Are all your stuff ready?” I asked him.

“Not yet.” Izan quipped sharply. I just had to make sure he would not make a careless mistake. That was the last thing we would need. A last-minute screw-up could crush months’ worth of saving up and planning. “He might enter my room anytime and see things missing. Can’t have that.”

“Good. That’s just how we planned.” I commented. Some of our plans were actually from him. Izan was a bright boy. Perhaps even more brilliant than I was. He was just too impulsive at times. “But for sure, you have a checklist inside your head already. Right?”

“Yeah.” My little brother responded. Then sat beside me before falling on his back on my bed. I couldn’t help but follow suit. “Relax. It will all go well.”

“Things will never be the same after tomorrow.” I muttered. It sounded almost painful. But it had to be said. Izan and I readied ourselves for whatever we had to do. “Hardships are waiting for us other there. We’re gonna be broke and working our asses off. Are you really ready for that?”

“That still sounds better than getting beat up here.” Izan sighed. I noticed the small crack on his lips from the smack a while ago. Scabs already formed. I didn’t even catch it bled during our sparring match. “You’re with me, so I don’t think I’ll be worried.”

“I’ll be just as lost as you.” I confessed with a sigh. It was the reality of things. The plan to run away from home had cemented us into a life of hardship. We grew up pretty comfortable if we didn’t consider the monster for a Tio. We could have been enrolled in private schools if he really wanted to. But that would take a lot of paperwork since our real Papa was alive yet was not really around. For Tio, that may be a waste of time. “I won’t have all the answers.”

“As long as I won’t be alone. I’ll be okay.” Izan leaned in and rested his head on my shoulder. It was the rare occasions when he would be particularly affectionate. He used to be, but that dwindled as he grew up. Tio would often call him marica. It was the irony because Izan found himself with a more aggressive fighting style. But I could sense my little hermano like a few boys here and there. There was one time he brought in a friend of his, and I saw how he looked with those eyes. He was a teenager, and he was probably confused with the hormones in his system. Every thirteen-year-old was like that. “We’ll find Papa for sure. And the first step is to get out of here.”

“I’m not even sure if we will be able to find him.” I groaned. I am now yours, too. It had to mean something. I just had that awful gut feeling for years, ever since he never returned. There was just no news about him. Tio never told us anything at all. “What if he’s dead? What do we do?”

“I don’t know. We really haven’t thought that far.” Izan replied. “But I’m sure we’ll think of something! We always do. That’s what Papa always taught us. We always need to be ready on our feet.”

“His life lessons are so weird sometimes.” I said, dropping my personal observations from the conversations we had with Papa. Sometimes they were helpful. But most of the time, they were random ramblings of a crazy man. The stories of Altimeraea would sometimes stop us from taking him seriously. “They’re always vague and somehow ambiguous.”

For the next hour, Izan and I reviewed all the details again. The timetable for our travel. Our budget for the whole trip. Who we can contact. Our excuses if ever any authority figures would question us. The places we’ll be going through. Our contact numbers. I was impressed that Izan memorized everything I told him to.

Our planning was interrupted when we heard the gates open and Tio driving in. And as soon as he got inside the living room, he called for our names. I didn’t like that sound because it meant we were summoned for a reason. His vibe was grimmer than usual. Almost like he was pissed. And that wouldn’t be a good thing for us. There was a high chance the night would end with one of us getting a beating.

Tio just walked around and brought a box of papers before dropping them on the floor. The hard thud almost made me wince. I didn’t like where the conversation was about to go.

“Do another round of your forms tonight. I want a serious duel between the two of you tomorrow.” He stated rigidly. I felt Izan beside me, trying his darnest to not look at me. My muscles almost spasmed from what I just heard. Even my lips went immediately dry after that. “I want to see improvements instead because my business trip got canceled.”

That moment was when my heart sank.

Copyright © 2023 Solus Magus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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