the slate of vale part 2

CHAPTER 2

The race

The growing day had no effect on the busy traffic, both on air and on land. People were coming from afar to witness this annual event. It was difficult to see the morning sky from the numerous machines swerving all around. There were the air shuttle, whose passenger’s were sticking their heads out from the glass windows, like milking children, and the cylindrical RCD9 Hover bird. The elites in their private air bike and air Tripler, were trying to maintain the trail, but the youths in their H-Board, kept disobeying the traffic, thereby making flight difficult as it was causing a lot of unwanted collision.

Jeff and Matt soared along with the others. They couldn’t wait for the trail, so they broke off impatiently and made their way to the Heroes square. Some riders soared recklessly with neck breaking speed while others soared in a group of four or five. The city was large, but it was predominantly filled with the Gray linage, the linage considered the weakest since the golden age.

The Heroes square was miles away from Jeff’s home, but its tower was always farther than it appears. The magnificent spiral tower was the tallest in Anadan, its beauty many adored. The intricate gems it created as the rivulet rays of the yellow sun, cast its radiance on it, could make one stare until they grow necks like that of a Giraffe. One of the features of the tower was the statue of a fierce eagle clutching a huge snake on its claw. This statue surrounds the entire skyscraper, making it appear more of a castle than a tower. At the apex of the tower was a white flag which bore a gold rhombus. Inscribed inside the rhombus was a gray hole, a red lightning bolt, a blue cross and a silver arrow.

“What’s wrong Jeff, why the sullen looks?” Matt asked as they landed gently on the front of the gate that reads: NO FLIGHT. GATE ONLY. The gate was large enough to accommodate ten people abreast, but the crowd today made it look like a funnel with narrow end.

“Is it about the race?” Matt asked again, but Jeff only spared him a glance from the corner of his eyes. Their Head-Plate folded with a clicking sound, into a small metal plate that covered their right ears.

“No,” Jeff said smoothly with a hard frown, the image of that envelope kept occupying his mind. He saw Matt opened his mouth to say something, but closed it almost immediately.

“Something strange happened to me today, and I think my mom might be behind it.” It was the only explanation his head had came up with. Either way, he could feel the weight of his head, spinning with confusion, as he fed Matt with the incident that happened earlier that day.

“I doubt she has anything to do with it; it’s probably a coincidence” Matt said in a thoughtful tone when Jeff finished.

“But how can you explain her absence, she should have remain in the sitting room with you Matt.” Jeff grumbled “Well, I think she purposely was avoiding me, who else could have dropped that envelope if not her?”

“Hmm, there are two sides to that, if she’d dropped the envelope, what about your glowing hands, was she responsible for that? You have to take it easy Jeff, I don’t know what happened in your room but believe me; your mom might have no hands in it. Besides, we didn’t look for her to tell she wasn’t somewhere around the house. We would figure this out later, for now, let’s battle this task at hand first.”

Jeff took a deep relaxing breath as he felt Matt’s hands resting on his shoulders. Matt was right, they really need to win this race, and he couldn’t do that with a clustered mind. Allowing his friend to read the silent words, Jeff nodded his head and they both squeezed pass the crowd, into the Heroes square.

The Heroes square was so-called because of the legendary warriors who gave their lives to save the world from darkness. As the seat of Anadan’s monarch, it held many extravagant buildings; From the Might’s hall, to the South-pool hall, down to the tower itself. You can’t count two cities in Anadan without counting the hero’s city first.

The stadium for the race was filled to the brim with people. Each single seat has a screen attached to it like a table; it enables a proper view of the race. The racing field itself was covered with sands and anemometers poles standing at interval, to show the number of laps. There were twenty-five poles in total.

Jeff and Matt in their gray jumpsuit stood in line with other racers. There were twenty-five racers in total, with five representatives from each clan. There were the Zappers in their Red jumpsuit, the Olic’s in their gold, the Candanian’s in their Blue and the Ama’s in their silver jumpsuit. Each color signifies the color of the power they exhibit, the power of the bow which embeds itself on the palms of all citizens, in exception of the Gray’s.

“This would be tough” Jeff said. He was sweating under his oversize jumpsuit, even though the sun had not reached its peak.

“Not as tough as getting the head of a camel through the eye of a needle, try and succeed, relent and fail, remember that?” Jeff frowned when he heard Matt. Those were his favorite line when they were twelve and Matt had refused to use his H-Board. He had dragged the reluctant Matt into the field after saying those words for like a thousand times.

“I can’t believe you still remember that” Jeff grumbled.

“I can’t see myself forgetting it, not after it changed my life for good.”

“Just keep it to yourself next time, okay?”

Matt laughed and Jeff really wished he could brush off the laughter from Matt’s face. He sometimes wonders why people always make fun of serious matters. Hmm, serious matters, well, not too serious, but, that’s what some people do anyway.

“I welcome you all to the first day of this contest; to this year’s entrance examination into the heroes’ academy….”

“Who is that?” Jeff asked. The man on the podium was like nothing he’d ever seen.

“That’s the new Selector of the academy, from the gold linage.”

Jeff awed at the way the man carried his shoulders. His gentleness was simple but yet complicated. Even as they paced the platform languidly with pride, it was as if the air were about him because his face bore no sweat of any kind, and his Gold color suit, seem to eat the color everyone here was wearing.

“…though our rule of picking the top five still holds” The man, known as the selector continued. “Our king” He bowed gently and the whole crowd did the same, out of habit than respect. “Has promised to award the top three; with special prize.” There was a little commotion among the racers but it disappears almost immediately as the Selector continued.

“So I urge our aspiring student to put up their best, you never can tell – . As the fourth SP-90 selector, I declare the first race open. Let the candidates put on their Head-Plate and let the first race begin.”

There was a loud shout from the crowd as all cheered for their racer. Jeff gulped as his Head-Plate unfolded and covered his face. He wasn’t used to the many crowd and he hates being in the center of attraction. Even in the mist of the other racers he felt alone.

The twenty-five racers stood on their hovering board, with face hidden behind their Head-Plate which had already converted into a helmet, even the visor on their helmet was hell dark like the depth of an ocean. Jeff sometimes wonders how the Head-Plate works. It could convert into a helmet by just clicking a button on it. It could also convert back into a small metal plate, that one could hardly comprehend how a small metal plate could turn into a helmet.

There was a loud feminine programmed voice heard as it counted down. Jeff felt his heart beating fast like the engine of a land Tripler. From the corner of his eyes he saw Matt looking his direction, he could imagine the looks on Matt’s handsome face, but he chose to remain neutral to any sense of thought. He wanted to focus on the task at hand. He wouldn’t see his years of practice crumbed before him. I will put on my best show. He whispered to himself, just as the programmed voice said zero.

*******

The twenty-five racers speed off like a flash of lightening, like a blur, leaving trails of dust and color. The cameras hovering after them were barely keeping up with the speed. Like a smear of different colors on an artistic brush, it was hard to see a racer properly, their color was the only thing visible enough, even their H-Board seemed be the blur itself.

“It’s a marvelous performance from the Blue; so far one of the Blue is maintaining the lead, with the Gold struggling to make it through.” The commentator said. He had his eyes and mind focused on the screen and whatever his eyes picked out from the race, his mouth voiced out. “From behind the grays are still following. And here comes the man in Red, he has maneuvered to pass the Blue and now he is on the lead.

Jeff cursed as he was push away again. The five Silvers in front won’t let any of the Grays to pass, trapping them in the fifth position which was considered the last when checked in terms of clan’s. They were in the tenth lap already, with fifteen more to go.

Jeff felt sweat under his clothe, the fast rushing air wasn’t enough to dry off his anxiety. He had tried to find a loop hole in the speeding walls of the Silvers, but all his maneuvering skills were falling through.

“Ouch!” Jeff exclaimed as one of the Silver rammed his shoulder into his head. That blow alone could have left his skull throbbing for weeks, but thank God for the helmet

Jeff pulled back a little and just then a thought pulped into his mind. Yes, that’s it. The jump and catch skill. Jeff knew it was a dangerous skill he had learned from TV, from the greatest racer in Anadan, His father. He had a number of collections of his father’s race, known for his great acrobats and stunts, but also as great racer who never made it first to the finish line. Jeff had practiced with Matt ever since and He knew that if he falls of his board he would be disqualified or worst die. But, he kept that fear in check; he suppressed them, not letting them prevent him from doing what he must do. It was the only way if he were to win. He wasn’t afraid that he might fall over and die, he was afraid that he might not reach the finish line before the others.

Just like my father.

Bending his right foot to acquire more momentum, Jeff steadied himself. He knew what to do; he had practiced a dozen times with Matt. The familiar sensation of adrenaline filled him as he gained more speed. Just then, he came close to the silver racer in his front. The racer tried to block his path, but instead of struggling with him, Jeff jumped overhead leaving his H-board which slid pass, underneath the boy. With a smooth grace Jeff landed on his H-board in front of the boy. He would have loved to see the surprised looks on the boy’s face, but right now, his aim was to get to the first position. Matt got the hint and followed his lead, jumping and landing. Dodging, twisting and deflecting. It was fun to watch. They were like flexible gymnastics, in an Olympic dance. Some of the Grays who weren’t accustomed with the skill tried to follow suit, but they fell off their board almost immediately.

“This is the best race ever!!!” the commentator shriek in delight “the Grays are making improvements, and from my point of view I think there are only two out of five remaining. Wow!! What a spectacular stunt from the kid in Gray. It’s been long since I watched a mind blowing race as this. Oh, I could bet my mother and children for this race to continue.”

The crowd cheered as the racers rounded another bend; they were now on the final lap.

Matt soared along side with Jeff just like they had practiced a hundred of times. Jeff couldn’t tell their position but he knew without being told, that they had set their mark and had beaten an unbeatable record. They were on the top five he guessed; they just needed to maintain it to the finish line.

Jeff managed to pass the Blue guy in front, but the Red suit was miles away and it was impossible to cover the distance separating them, let alone pass him. Jeff decided to maintain whatever position he had; at least he and Matt had achieved what other Grays deemed impossible. Even his father who was refer to as the big Gray blur of Anadan, had not made it this far. Now am comparing my effort with my father’s

Guilt started welling up in his stomach and anger replaced it. He felt ashamed of himself. I will never make it first to the fini-

Wait a minute-

Jeff’s eyes had adjusted and he could see the Red suit clearly. He didn’t know how he had done it but it just happened, he could see thousands of miles away and clearly. In his attempts to fix the puzzle, the Blue suit boy passed him but Jeff didn’t notice, his eyes were still on the Red boy who was miles away.

Every now and then the Red guy would lean a little and touch his board with his glowing hands. Jeff remembered, the history had it that the Reds were the blurs of the five clans, they were the fastest ever known in the history of Anadan. It was now that Jeff understood; nobody knew how to use the glow of speed. That was why no one could match the Red’s speed.

Jeff lean forward not actually knowing what he was doing, he bent down hugging his H-board and at that instant he felt something rushing through his vein, not adrenaline this time but something else, something he had never felt before. He felt alive; he felt power like the refreshing breath of a newly born baby, like the amazing breeze coming from the outskirts of a fresh water habitat, like the soft drop of water on the petals of a rose flower. With the power he could imagine his hands or body glowing, but what was happening? Jeff kept that thought at bay as he transferred the power rushing through his vain into his H-board, and then…

…It was all dark.

*********

“JEFF, JEFF.”

“JEFF, someone was calling him, it felt distant but yet familiar, what had happened? Jeff couldn’t tell. He felt the cold hands of darkness enveloping him. The urge to stay with this darkness was enticing.

“Jeff, hope you are okay?” The voice called again but this time it was nearer.

Jeff groaned as if in a deep sleep and opened his eyes, he felt like lying down there forever, but then saw two pair of concerned eyes staring down at him.

“Thank the heroes you are okay,” Matt said as he pulled him into a tight hug. Jeff was surprised to see himself lying on the floor, covered with dirt.

“What happened” he asked Matt who pulled him up to his feet.

“You tell me Jeff. You bloody tell me how you made the impossible appear so easy” Matt said laughing.

Jeff stared at him with confusion but then he remembered. That was when he noticed that they were standing in the mist of multitudes, all cheering and chanting the name, Grayoner. An ancient name once used to praise someone who had done something great. A name that had lay forgotten since the death of his father, a name used to refer to the Grays.

Jeff stared, taking the sight all in; they were clapping for him, for the little him. Had he made it? Did he cross the Rubicon that obstructed his father for years?

“Matt, how is this possible, the Red guy was hundreds of steps ahead.”

“I don’t know Jeff, one moment you were in front of me and the next moment you were gone like a lightning bolt. And here you are lying on the dirt with the crowd chanting your name. I was hoping you would tell me Jeff.” Matt said it quickly, amidst of catching his breath and laughing at the same time.

Jeff looked around to make sure he was the one they were clapping for. The post bearing the last anemometer, which signifies the finish line, was distant away. He must have fallen off his board when passed that line.

“But what about the guy in Red, was he-”

“Am a girl you know.” Said a soft feminine voice

Jeff turned and behind him stood a young beautiful girl in Red jumpsuit. She had her red hair tied in a ponytail; with skin color like that if the evening sun. Her rose perfect lips and snow white eyes were engraved gracefully in an oval face, with smoothness, reminding Jeff of a fresh apple.

“I thought you…emm….I’m Jeffred Peters and this is my friend Martins Zonna.” Jeff said sharply and held out his hand for a hand shake. He had long forgotten the crowd. Matt too was also under the same effect of the girl as he dusted his body off the dirt he had gotten from Jeff.

“Am Emazita Long” the girl took his hand and Jeff could feel the soft skin underneath the toothless gloved. He wanted to hold her hands and never let go, but that would but stupidity, he barley know the girl.

“Let the contestants step forward please.” The Selector from the academy said. The twenty-five, both those that were disqualified all walked to the right hand side of the square, to where the throne of the king had arrived and now resting.

The noise from the crowd ceased as the King stood up and walked down the podium. There was grace to every step he made; he was from the gold linage, the linage of kings and the strongest of all. His gold robe which was emblazoned with different coppery pattern, swerve gently behind him, and the image of an eagle clutching a snake, was embedded around his silver scepter. His gold crown resting on his dark hair sparked when it caught the rays of the morning sun. His aging brown eyes studied the young faces of the racers; he was smiling though, bringing more lines to his face.

His eyes paused when fell on Jeff who was looking at him with wild mouth.

“What’s your name kid?”

“Jeffred Peters, your majesty.” The king smiled again.

“Well done, you are a spectacular racer.”

“Thank You…I mean sir…I mean your majesty” Jeff said sheepishly. From the corner of his eyes, he heard Emazita chuckled and that made him flushed with embarrassment.

The Selector came rushing with a plate of medals, and the king, picking out one at a time, gave each of the participant bronze, the top five he awarded with a golden eagle. As to his promise to the top three, he gave Matt, Ema and Jeff a blue file of documents and smiled with satisfaction when he noted the confused looks on their young faces.

“Long live the kingdom of Anadan.” The king’s voice echoed. The voice amplifier attached to his robe made sure of that.

“Long live Anadan’s heart.” The people chorused in unison.

“Today is another great day, a day where a decade years of record was broken by a Gray, a day where a new history would be written. A new day has come with a new life. To fulfill my promise, these fast three I give these documents which acclaim its bearer as a bonfire owner of one of any of the mansion in Donald’s estate.” There were cries of joy from the crowd, from friends, siblings and well-wishers. Matt almost tripped Jeff to the floor as he pulled him in a tight hug. Jeff on the other hand was dumbfounded. The Girl Emazita only smiled as though she had expected it.

“And because this is a historic day, henceforth, I will take it upon myself to see to the welfare of the widows and orphans in the city.”

“May you live forever?” Someone shouted amidst the noise from the crowd. The king raised his silver scepter with the eagle embedded on it and struck the marbled floor twice. The crowd became dead in silent.

He nodded as if pleased and continues “I would also like to acknowledge the tireless effort of these people.” One of the enforcers – not the robots – brought him a notepad.

“General, John Northu Red.”

The man he called walked out of the crowd almost in hurry, the Red attached to his name shows that he was from the Red linage. He was in a black suit with red tire and red wristlet underneath, which flares its color once every second as the General hurried. The king shook hands with him and gave him the house documents. Northu collected it carefully, almost as if he was already bounded with the blue envelope

“Come on general, it’s not fragile.” The king teased.

“I know, but am not taking any chances.” The crowd laughed warmly as the general walked down the platform.

“Stephie Rex Gray” A plump woman also walked out of the crowd to the podium and collected hers.

“Zack Alfa Red”

“Rex Stuntman Gold”

“Donald Vin Gray”

“And…”

“…the last here but not the least, is no other person but, our genius inventor. Dr. Jakins Oden Blue”

The clap from the crowd was much louder as the doctor stood up and straightening his black suit. He was a middle age man with bard gray hair. He wore calm posture over his aging face and he was nowhere near hurry, as he glided to the direction of the king.

“Why have you chosen to rip off the feathers of a living raven” The doctor asked. He was standing on the podium now but the pomposity resting on his shoulders couldn’t let him remove his hands from his pocket. The king looked him in the eyes trying to place a finger on those words.

“Perhaps, if the raven is worth the effort” The king looked thoughtful trying to choose his words carefully and also trying to maintain his humor. Doctor Jakins he knew was among the few who thought him too young and naive to be king.

“What is it that I heard?” The doctor paced around the platform as if in deep thoughts. “Oh yes I remember, it is said that even the raven with the strongest wings soar higher than the weaker ones. And even the best hunter deserves the greatest share of his game.”

“But what do you have to say when the hunter or the raven is amidst the strongest and the brave?” The king asked impatiently. The once joyful crowd was now a quiet cemetery, if one listens closely one would hear the heartbeat of the one sitting next to him. The ear has never heard, neither have the eye seen anyone, who spoke to the King with such arrogance.

“Why the riddles old friend?” The king asked, more calmly like a gentle Tiger whom everyone thought timid.

“Am not accepting that” the doctor roared, all calmness gone. His gray hair seems to stand on his head and his silver colored eyes were filled with hate as they stared at the king coldly.

“It belittles my personality; what do you take me for, a beggar for honorary?” Jakins spat “I can’t condescend to receive the same price as these brats.” He pointed at the three youths in their jumpsuit. “And for your -”

“ENOUGH!!” The king slammed his scepter so hard that the ground shook. His gold colored robe was already glowing and his eyes too, were more gold now than brown. The whole crowd got tensed. It was bad enough to provoke a Gold, but making him transformed into a full Extractor? That was worse.

The enforcers were on the platform almost immediately, fully transformed. Their silvery skin which was glowing with eye blinding light, could be seen ten miles away, it was as if their lambent glow was pulsing slowly. Their silver bows were ready with transparent arrow. All trace of their humanity was gone.

Jeff stared with wide mouth; their eyes were as white as snow, flashing its gem like a blue fire. Their dark hair and black gear was the only contrast to their silver skin. Apart from the books he had read about the Lambent of Vale, he had never seen anyone transformed fully into an Extractor.

“You will speak no further” the king commanded, his glowing body was ebbing away, and his calmness returning.

“Am s…o…rry my l…o…rd” The doctor stammered out of embarrassment than fear “I didn’t -”

“The king said enough you will speak only when spoken to” the leader of the enforcers shouted in a loud deep voice, a voice of order, a voice from one who has pledge their allegiances to serve. To serve and to uphold the truth, that was the motto.

The king shook his head in disapproval when two of the enforcers moved smoothly to cease the Doctor.

“Let him be” he said calmly as he ascends his throne and sat gently.

“Thank you my king, am sorry my ambitious self got the best of me.” The doctor said. He collected the documents from the Selector and turned to walk back to his seat.

“Jakins” The king called from his throne.

“Yes my lord.”

“You will apologies to three you insulted” the king said and Jeff almost collapsed. Was the king out of wit? The doctor owes them no apology. Jeff opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted when the doctor made a hasty bow and apologized.

“You are no longer fit for the award, you will hand the documents back to the Selector.” The king ordered

“But my king-” the doctor was about to say but gulped the remaining speech with his saliva when he got an angry glare from the leader of the enforcer.

“Off course my Lord” the doctor said with a smirk as he handed the documents back and walked to his seat, with his tails between his legs.

“To a new history” the king suddenly shouted as he raised a gold goblet.

“To a new life” the crowd replied as the D.J burst the crowd with a hot jam, driving away the gloomy atmosphere and replacing it with a happy one.

Jeff thought he heard someone say “YOU WILL PAY…” It sounded like the voice of the doctor, but he had his doubt, the doctor was far and the noise from the audience would have drowned those words. In his puzzle, Matt shook his shoulder gently.

“We made it Jeff; we are going to the Heroes’ academy.”

“I know Matt; I know” Jeff answered with a mixed feeling.

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