“Get your mind right, kid. How could you miss that hit?” I let the thought go, rolled over, and sprung to my feet. Michael was behind me. I glanced at him, making sure he was fine. He understood my unspoken question and gave me a short nod. That was enough.
Our two adversaries were both on their feet again. They were slowly approaching. With a lot more caution, now. The crowd had grown since we started. Their shouts and cheering were strong enough, I could feel them in my chest. They were enjoying this. And to tell you the truth so was I.
Michael glanced at me to let me know he was ready to move, but there was a drop of fear in his eyes. My mouth opened in a big grin, raising my chin at him (meaning now is now), and charged the man with the stick. Then my friend did the same with the big man.
Somehow I seemed to draw strength from the fight itself. I was covered in sweat already. My body was aching all over. And I liked it. I liked everything. Even the dirt that was clinching to every part of my skin. The itch it caused. I took it all in, and it made me strong.
When my make-believe sword hit the stick of my “dance” partner he felt the power I took from that moment. My strength might’ve been amplified by the pain he was feeling from the hit I dealt him before.
He backed up, trying to stop the succession of hits I was sending his way. I could feel doubt slipping in his mind. His movements were slower now, somewhat uncertain. Like he was not used to defending himself. I was able to read him easily now. And he didn’t like it.
This gave me time to look around. Michael was under attack. But he was still on his feet. Though I couldn’t predict for how long he’ll be able to stay that way. To help him, I had to end my opponent soon, if possible.
My moment of thinking was a little too long and my awakening was brutal when I didn’t manage to completely stop the blow coming at me. It missed my head and connected to my left shoulder. Thank Mesa I only needed my right hand to hold the sword.
Encouraged by his success, the angry man in front of me started the offense. But he was sloppy, eager to finish. And it was his final mistake.
As the stick was cutting the air in an attempt to find my head I moved aside, grabbed it, and pulled it forward. With his balance gone, his body went in front with no control. My weapon found the side of his head and unloaded all the force I was able to deliver.
As I looked up. My friend was charging his adversary. They both seem to be out of breath. Moving like rusted iron giants. A hasty move from Michael and he was down again. As the white giant went to finish it, I shouted, catching his attention enough to make my way beside Michael, who was trying to find balance. The good part was, he still smiled, though blood covered his teeth.
“What you say we finish this?” I said while our only opponent still standing, was hurtling towards us. He nodded, and it was again enough.
When the blow came, we broke in opposite directions. And he was ours. First, he went after me, and Michael hit the shoulder of the hand holding the club. The big man let out a groan and, like a bear enraged by a wound, turned to face him. I put all the force left in me in the blow I delivered behind one of his knees. It was enough to get him down for a moment.
As he got on his knees, we both looked into his eyes, waiting for him to surrender. There was no surrender. As he was still trying to get up, we let go of our final hits. And it was all over.
An eerie silence came over the fighting arena as we were standing there, catching our breaths. It was just a moment, but to us, it felt a lot longer. Then came the yells and cheers. They were so loud, we couldn’t hear the men that appeared between us. He said something the crowd liked because they started shouting “Rookies, rookies, rookies”.
He made a sign and the arena was silent again. He confirmed our win and sent us to the arch where the weapon wall was. When we got there and set down, our bodies told us the truth. We were both aching everywhere. Michael was covered in bruises, had a broken lip, and a couple of bumps on his head, but he was smiling. I, on the other hand, wasn’t smiling. I couldn’t feel my left hand. My shoulder was double its normal size. My left eye was swollen, and probably blue.
In short, we were still standing. Hardly.
The owner of this, barely called, arena came to us as we got up to go looking for him.
-You gave a good show, boys. That was a big surprise for everyone.
-That’s us, always surprising, Michael said, showing his red teeth.
-You almost cost me more than you made me. Almost.
-I hope you made enough to pay us, Marek.
-Of course boys. Marek is a man of his word, he said as he threw Michael a little red beg. I like you. If you ever need to make some money come see me.
-We better not. You might be left with no fighters, I said smiling.
He smiled back, made a gesture with both hands, like do as you want, and let us be. Michael was already checking the content of the bag and seemed to be satisfied.
We started slowly towards the exit. As we passed through the crowd, they moved aside. I could read admiration on their faces, and respect, and fear. I liked the feeling.
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