The Hoe-Handler

There was a time, long ago, when an old farmer offered him a hoe to use against the bandits assaulting his house. Honestly, Russ was skilled enough to use any sort of weapon, instead of the brand new sword hanging at his hip. However, he was fresh out of training, the top of his class, and his pride as a swordsman took over. With a tight smile, he grasped the rusted hoe with both hands, only to toss it aside as he reprimanded the foolish farmer for ridiculing him like this.
The old man rushed past him to retrieve the hoe, and after he fought off the bandits, he moved on to the capital, sure that he was bound for greater things.

His noteworthy performance in the tournament kept him convinced of that, as well as the newspapers and banners spread around in praise of him. His name heavily discussed in taverns, the bets placed on him, all the fame he could ask for. It swelled him up with confidence, and at the same time, slowed the hands of his opponents. They trembled when they saw him, granting him easy victories. What few people he faced who weren't complete cowards weren't worth his effort.

What a fool Russ was, blind to that silent rival steadily climbing his way up the ranks of the tournament. As quiet as that man had tried to be about his victories, his unique style landed him an article in one of the more popular newspapers.

He read it and tossed it aside, not expecting much from anyone other than himself.

It is only in the last match, when everything is at stake, that Russ finds himself proven horribly wrong, and as the world sails past, he catches sight of that rusted hoe.

Resting comfortably in the hands of the silent man standing over him. He wears no smug grin, no sign of mirth over his easy victory, like Russ has so many times before.

"Y-you win," Russ grinds out, barely able to speak from the pain shooting up his spine. He's been tossed onto his back enough times to know speaking only makes it worse, but he wants to provoke this man who's just bested him, wipe the humility off his sober face, expose him for the arrogant prick he actually is.

"I'm sorry," the man replies, grabbing Russ's free hand to pull him to his feet. "I have no time to give you a proper fight, but if you wish for one."

"Find me."

An admirable man, if he met any. Not just his fighting skills, but the sense of honor he shows after a fight. Russ wonders just when he lost his own sense of honor.

The tournament ends with much ceremony, but the winner of the tournament is nowhere to be found. Just as quietly as he came, he slips back out, fading into obscurity. Later on, officials from the torn country of Lumir come searching for the "Hoe-Handler" as some have not-so-cleverly named him. Russ sits back in his inn room, and reads the papers, the headlines accusing the man they once praised of being a traitor to his home country, a man who stood and watched his king's gruesome assassination.

This same man who bested him, who accepted an old farmer's rusted hoe, who showed such humbleness after an easy win had betrayed his own country so cruelly. Russ folds the papers up, and wonders what the price of redemption is, if such a worthy man would ever be able to forgive himself.

He sets off the next day in search of this Hoe-Handler because regardless of the man's past, his existence promises a worthy fight.

The End

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