– Right, but it was worth a try, Michael said, trying to smile and not doing a good job. You know I’m not the son of lords and ladies. Unlike the rest of you, I had to work to get here.
-What do you mean? We are all mama’s boys and girls? I asked, to tease him a little.
-Not all, he said. Anyway, I am paying to be in Itanec, and to be allowed at the university. My parents are farmers, so it’s not that easy for them. In short, I don’t have enough money to pay for school. And by the end of the month, I’ll be back, working on the farm with my parents.
-So you have to go home just when I started to like you, I said with a straight face. But what can you do, these things happen sometimes. Now you have to make the best of your time here.
The face he made when I said that was priceless. But I couldn’t hold a straight face for too long.
-So it’s only a money problem?
-Only a money problem! It’s a problem I have no solution for. I started to like it here, Michael said moping.
-You started to like Alexandra, I said hitting his shoulder. I’ll give you the money. How much do you need?
-I don’t want your money, Marcus, he answered stilted.
-Michael, you are my friend, but sometimes you can be too stubborn for your own good. Live your ego aside, and let me help you. You will have no debt to me.
-I can’t do that Marcus. I appreciate your offer, but I’ll pay with my money or I will not pay at all.
-Then why you tell me all this if you won’t let me help, I said, a bit pissed.
-Because you made me tell you, and because there is one way I can use your help, he said.
-What are you talking about?
-I found out that on the poor side of the city, fights are held. And people can wager on them.
-So, your plan is to gamble and lose the money you have now?
-You’re wrong, or at least not entirely right. There are two men who promise ten thousand gold pieces to anyone that can beat them in a knuckle fight.
-And what’s the catch?
-The catch is, each of the ones challenging them has to put up a thousand gold pieces. A… and they never lost a fight.
-And who will fight alongside you? I asked, though I already knew the answer.
-I hoped you’ll come along. I saw you take out that guy, at The Mushroom. And you were completely wasted then. I reckon you can do a lot better when you are sober. What do you say? Michael asked.
For a few moments, I thought about turning him down and trying to change his mind. But I could’ve used the action. Things in Itanec were boring lately. And I was doing this for a friend. So, why not?
– You know what, Michael? I’ll come with you, but first, I need some answers from you.
-Of course. Anything. He said, visibly relieved.
-Have you ever fought before? I mean fighting for real.
-Not since I was a boy, but I can manage. I used to put down the young bulls at the farm with my hands.
-That’s impressive, but if you want me to fight by your side I need to be sure you can, at least, take care of yourself. For this purpose, I’ll need to see what you can do. So, let’s see, I said, signaling him to come at me.
-What? Now? He asked, confused.
-Stop talking and start fighting, I said, as I slapped him lightly.
He turned red, but still no response from him. So I slapped him again. This time a little harder. I started moving around him, ready for his answer. And when the attack came, it was a lot faster than I expected. So fast, that I felt his fist brushing my cheek.
This reminded me to give up cockiness and pay attention. At least when I was fighting.
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