"ALRIGHT KIDDOS, GO AT IT!" The MC screamed into his microphone. I dropped immediately into the defensive unarmed stance Sitka taught me last week. Left foot slightly in front of the other, facing forward. Arms up to protect the face and chest. Eyes focused. Loose but ready.
Or at least, I hope that's what I did. My brain decided that showing me a ton of gruesome images involving my impending doom would be a good idea right at that moment.
But I knew the demon lawyer could come at any second, so I sucked it up and tried to concentrate.
...except he wasn't moving either. The long cloak concealed most of his body, but I could tell his feet and weight were in the same position as mine. Defensive.
A moment ticked by. Two. I began worrying that I'd missed some important rule or battle etiquette somewhere. Why wasn't he attacking? Couldn't we start now? I didn't want to be the one to start!
The crowd began murmuring restlessly. I cast around desperately for a clue as to what was going on. My eyes landed on my opponent's. They seemed incredibly stoic, I had no idea what he was thinking. Only that if he was confused, he hid it very well.
"I SAID F***ING START ALREADY!"
I probably jumped about three feet into the air as the irritated MC bellowed at us. Frightened and embarrassed, I grit my teeth. Fine. First round of the tournament and I could stand to learn a little aggression. The first hit would be mine!
I burst forward, sand flying from under my boots. Almost immediately, the "fight brain" Sitka told me about started to kick in. It took basic emotions like fear and turned them into focus. My terror became a whip spurring me onward. All superfluous thoughts disintegrate in the fight brain. All that matters is survival. No hesitation, only anticipation. Just me and my opponent. I'd fight and I'd live, damn it!
Since the opponent had at least a head on me, a drop kick seemed the perfect first move. I've always been good at jumping anyways- every B-ball player loves to dunk, after all. And my legs were the longest, strongest part of my body.
Leaping as if to jump over him, I scissored my legs open and brought one down as hard as I could. Gravity and heavy boots made my foot a dangerous bludgeon.
But then, lightning fast, a long pole of some strange metal appeared in my path. Somehow the demon lawyer had managed to swing his heavy scythe up over his head in the time it took me to jump. That was some scary speed. I'd have to keep it in mind. Speed and endurance are the only things I have going for me. They don't mean much if the opponent is faster and sturdier though.
My foot connected with the scythe with a satisfying CLACK! At least the blow had been powerful, even if he did easily block it. My satisfaction was short lived however. The opponent went and turned my momentum against me! He thrust the scythe sharply forward, vaulting me backwards and upside down.
Panicking, I threw my legs over my head and landed hard on all fours. Despite the soft sand, the shock sent a painful jolt through my limbs. Ow. Suddenly I fully realized exactly what these battles would entail: pain.
But the sand was so nice and warm and inviting. I'd have liked to stay where I was a few moments longer. Apparently the Demon lawyer had other plans.
I felt more than saw the shadow tendrils streaking along the arena towards me. They were a lot thicker and pointier than anything I could come up with. Fortunately, I'd prepared for this kind of attack at least.
Spinning around, I pointed my palms at the incoming tendrils and spat a word of power. "Bollr!" A flash of light bloomed in front of my hands, effectively dissolving the shadows. It is the simplest spell taught by the magical linguistics class. It's neither difficult to cast or maintain. Usually it's not particularly useful either. Neos, the one who taught the class, could probably cast hundreds at a time and barely notice.
For me, just one was challenge enough. But one was all it took. Shadows are pretty sensitive to light. I learned this the first time I used (or attempted to use) one of my own. The thing had gone from aloof to begrudging to downright malicious. Unable to wait until the next shadowmancy class, I shined a flashlight at the thing until it hissed and disappeared.
These tendrils were stronger, but so was my light, and they'd had little greater chance of survival.
Something akin to impatience crossed the demon lawyer's face. I stepped back unconsciously. Did he have a lunch or something to get to? Or had I already bored him to tears?
Suddenly he was coming straight for me, that huge scythe swinging over his shoulder. Blinking, I cursed myself for my momentary distraction. Back up, back up you idiot! My common sense urged me. However in my surprise I hadn't adjusted my stance. Turning around to run would take too long!
Instead I started the stumble backward. The shining blade sliced at me too fast. I couldn't dodge! Suddenly, before I fully processed what had happened, my body began to pitch downwards rather than away. A rock. A damn rock in the middle of half a football field of sand. It wasn't particularly large, but enough to snag on my boot and send me sprawling.
The sudden change of direction probably ended up saving me from a deeper cut. Instead the blade licked a shallow length of fire into my shoulder. The cut stung like a particularly bad accident with a kitchen knife, but nothing too serious.
Still, the shock of first blood- my blood, had me sprawling on my butt. Panicked, I looked up at my opponent and his next attack I was in no place to defend against.
My opponent looked back at me. Was that annoyance I saw!? I felt my face heat indignantly. He should just cut me up if I were so slow!
Instead he opened his mouth.
"Fight seriously!" He chided, still holding his position a few feet away.
"I am!" I snapped back impulsively. Seriously, did he have a hot date waiting or something? What was the rush?! Normally I'm not really the assertive, conflictive type, but his tone started to annoy me.
My anger had me up and flinging myself at my opponent before I really realized what I was doing. Apparently it took my opponent by surprise as well. The wild punch I'd aimed in his general chest area connected. Hard.
The shock jittered up my arm as if I'd slammed it into a concrete wall. Reinforced with steel. And probably plenty of spikes for good measure. I could practically hear the bones in my hand snapping. With a stagger I managed to right myself and pull back.
But gah, it hurt! A sneaked peak at the demon lawyer proved he had hardly noticed the hit. Hmph. Figures. I blinked a did a double take.
Was he- was he SMILING!? Why the heck was he smiling?!? A cold feeling settled into my gut. So far I had taken most of the hits, despite the fact that he was the one usually defending. This battle was only going to get worse...
Cal belongs to
Helmy is 's~