February 2013

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“Are you excited?”

“Completely! I’ve been training for this my whole life!”

“You really have. I still don’t understand why you want to embrace that side of yourself. With the enchantments, you practically look normal.”

“I hate wearing these things. Next time, maybe we meet for lunch on the monster side of town. You could see my apartment!”

“We’ll see, sis. Oh… Mom wishes you luck.”

“Thanks!”

Clover picked up her phone again. She’d been checking it compulsively all during lunch. Her smile grew so wide her fangs almost broke through the enchantment. It was finally time.

“Gotta go, bro! Get ready for the most badass battle in history!”

“You’re a level one, sis. Just try not to get smeared, okay?”

She kissed her half-brother on the top of his head.

“Aww! You do care! Bye!”

She dashed off toward the arena, waving goodbye franticly. The floating arena was a landmark on the border dividing the human and monster areas of the city. Every day, human heroes and warrior monsters battled for glory, money, and influence. It was a political game as well. More wins meant more control of the city. The monster side used to only be a few caves and crags on the edge of town. Now they had free reign over the whole northwest quarter.

Clover wanted to fight for two main reasons. One was the simple fact that it was fun. She’d always been good at fighting and it gave her a rush. Another, secret, reason was that humans tended to treat her friends like dirt. Even the title ‘monster’ was used offensively. Not all of them were evil. Why couldn’t they be considered heroes too? If she got up to boss level on the monster side, maybe she could change all that. She supposed here was a third reason, too. There was a small chance her dad was watching. He was a powerful demon rabbit, well respected. Mostly, though, the idea of battling professionally just completely rocked.

Once she neared the arena, Clover ditched the enchantments. Monsters weren’t allowed too deep in the human side – even half-monsters like herself. Now that she was in a more neutral zone, she could hop instead of run. She bounded down the sidewalk, grinning madly into the wind.

She reached the entrance to the arena in no time. A platform beneath the floating building made it easier for non-flying folks to get inside. Wizards from both sides dematerialized people there and popped them into the arena. Another set of magic types could transport fighters to their designated stage, but she knew that anyone worth their levels got to their stage on their own. They only floated a few feet off the ground, after all. The only real trouble was finding the right one.

She showed her ID to the feathered wizard. He nodded. Clover braced for the tingling sensation. One quick zap and she was in the arena lobby. Clover shook off the lingering magical energy clinging to her fur. She giggled as she went to get her armor.

This. Is. Awesome!

Armor lockers varied in size. Higher levels and large monsters got bigger and more specialized places to store their gear. Clover’s looked like she was back in school.

She pulled out a violet jacket with pink fur trim. She’d cut off the fur hood to use on her halberd. A consistent wardrobe was important. Clover wanted to knock out her opponent with sheer glamour! She wrapped her legs in violet ribbon, with little extra to tie back her ears. Her pearlescent horns got a quick shine. She checked her game face in the mirror – fantastically fierce! – and was ready to go.

The battle board posted her fight as stage G-17. The enchantments on it would make it look like they were in a golden meadow.

Sweet.

Clover took note of the stage’s location and zigzagged through the open halls between stages until she found hers. The fight was scheduled to start in five minutes.

She practiced a few flashy movements with her weapon. The pink fur trim danced just beneath the main axe blade. She had to find just the right action for her introduction pose.

A chime sounded out of nowhere.

Clover squealed with delight.

This is it!

A boy materialized in front of her. His armor was simple, maybe even a little rusty. The sword in his hand looked more like his great-grandpa’s letter opener. Some people had no style.

A level one? I was afraid they were going to break me down first with a three or four. This is great!

Time for her grand intro. She spun her halberd above her head a few times and slammed it into the stage. Her opponent sneered and gripped his sword tighter. Clover smirked, letting her gleaming fangs show on one side. She raised a claw and pointed at her temporary foe.

“Let’s do this!”

The hero roared his battle cry as he rushed forward. Clover brought her halberd down. Just before it struck his helmet, the hero brought up his blade. The weapons clanged together. Hers was cast aside, missing its target. The hero tried a horizontal slice. Clover deftly jumped above it and kicked him in the head with one fluid movement. He’d have to try harder than that!

Suddenly, there was a noise like thunder. The stage tilted slightly as giant talons gripped the edge. Clover scowled. A scaly green thing was hoisting himself up into her fight! This was her big moment! She wasn’t going to let some higher level push her aside just because he had seniority. Her opponent was left staring dumbfounded as she stormed over to the intruder.

“Hey! This is my spawn-point!”

“What, you? Ha. Move over, little bunny. This one’s mine.”

Clover jabbed his taloned fingers with the point of the halberd.

“Yes, me! I’m scheduled! Go back to whatever dank cave you crawled out of.”

“But, isn’t this F-17?”

“No! G-17. Do you think he would give you any kind of fight? Come on, man!”

The huge, scaly thing scratched his head and eyed the hero quivering in the center of the platform.

“Guess not. Sorry, miss.”

He lumbered back down and out of sight.

Clover rolled her eyes.

“Now… where were we?”

The hero shrugged weakly.

“W-we don’t have to. You know, I mean, the mood’s kinda ruined, right?”

“We can do this! It’s my first battle. I’m not quitting!”

“Yeah, but… maybe I am.”

His sword clanged to the ground. Clover’s jaw dropped.

He won’t even lose for the experience points? No way!

She had to fix this, and quick. He was nearing the edge of the stage. If he passed through the enchantments, it would be over. No loss for him and, more importantly, no win for her!

Clover ran after her opponent and leapt into the air. She didn’t have to kill him, though his healers would re-spawn him before his next fight. No, she just had to knock him out before he forfeited. Inches from the stage edge, her foot slammed into his back. He crashed to the ground below. A gong sounded the end of the battle. A swirl of luminous text appeared in the air, congratulating her. She beamed as she went to collect her winnings.

Watch out, world! I’m leveling up!