Traynur jogged up to me, “Are you ready Juewuhl?”
“Well, I’m awake.”
“I hope you’re more than awake” he said. “You need to be alert.”
“I am. I’m ready to win this thing.”
“Good. They’ll be starting soon I think.”
“How do the matchups work?”
“They’re completely random. Drawn from a bowl.”
“So I could end up with someone way better than me?”
Traynur gave me a sidelong glance, “I’d say most of the people here are way better than you Juewuhl. It’s not a matter of you could end up with someone better, it’s a matter of how much better they are.”
“Well that’s very encouraging Traynur. Thanks.”
He smiled ruefully, “Well I didn’t say I minded you proving me wrong. I think you have a shot Juewuhl. I honestly do. You may have just started, but you have grasp on your Shroud that speaks of someone with ten times your experience. Remember what I said at the very beginning, Use your best weapon, and you can beat anyone in here. Good luck.”
He gave me a pat on the shoulder then pushed his way into the crowd and disappeared.
“Will all contestants please make their way to the ring! The Tournament is about to begin!”
I, along with most every combat Shroud on Cyst, made my way to the center of the Arena and waited for the announcer to continue.
“Before we start we would like to take a moment to honor those participating in this tournament. Not all of you will live to see the end, and we want you to know that you will be remembered.”
On modern day Earth silence is a rarity. Here it was a little more commonplace, but despite that fact I was awed as the entire Arena went silent.
“Thank you. And now, we come to the moment that decides the course of this century’s tournament! Bring out the pot!”
After years of watching the lottery and powerball, I expected the pot to be a massive container. Instead, what was brought out was a small cauldron style jar. I was amazed, I had cooked spaghetti in bigger pots than that.
“This year, the tournament has forty-eight participants meaning there will be four rounds of matches, and a three way battle to decide the winner! The first matchup is: Spier versus Boldurh!”
The crowd cheered and clapped as the two stepped forward and placed their names on a large bracket that had been placed on the wall to the left.
I didn’t listen to all the matchups, but among the ones I did hear were:
“Slyce and Pailadyn!”
The crowd went particularly wild on this one. Slyce wasn’t in my class, so I put two and two together and figured that he must be one of the favorites.
That didn’t look good for Pailadyn.
“Pownde versus Rainjur!”
I had observed Rainjur a few times during class, but I hadn’t had the chance to fight him. I remembered from an earlier conversation that Pailadyn didn’t like Rainjur very much. I wondered why that was, and hoped that it wasn’t because of his skill. I wanted Pownde to win.
“Boldurh and Spier!”
Another eruption from the crowd. I didn’t recognize either of them, but some of the other participants seemed to visibly relax. At least one of the two was a force to be reckoned with. I wanted to catch that match if I could. Earlier in the week, Traynur had explained that you could go and watch other matches assuming you had the time. He seemed pretty confident that most of the time spent outside of the Arena would be in recovery.
I hoped he was wrong.
“Juewuhl versus Klohne!”
When this was announced, the crowd went unusually silent. I tried to glimpse into the crowd as I stepped forward and saw a lot of confused faces. Perhaps I wasn’t as much of an object as I thought. Although I did notice quite a fingers pointed at me, and caught whispers referring to my Shroud.
After over a month here I, and my classmates, had grown used to my white Shroud. Those who didn’t see me on a daily basis were still shocked by its difference in color.
I also stole a look at my opponent. He wasn’t very tall, and he wasn’t muscular. I would have put him at about five feet and four inches and just over one hundred pounds. He was a person that you instantly got a bad vibe from. He didn’t even look trustworthy. His eyes were green and shifty, he had a small tight mouth, and sharp angular features.
We slotted into the second half of round one, meaning our battle would take place tomorrow. That was good for me, because if Klohne’s name was any indication, his power would be a tricky one to outmatch. That was another advantage I possessed. According to Traynur, most people weren’t named until after they had chosen their Shroud. I was the exception to the rule, so my name had absolutely nothing to do with my Shroud power.
Which wasn’t bad in the slightest.
I would have time to think about my opponent’s name and how their power might work, but all my opponent’s could do was wonder what in the world my Shroud did. If I was lucky, they might even believe it had something to do with gems.
Let them think about that .
The matchups ended with,
“Spyke versus Flaemuh!”
There was applause for the two of them, but not at the level it had been for some of the superstars. Both of them were in my class, so while the crowd may not have been as excited for the two of them, I was looking forward to seeing how that match would turn out.
The participants dispersed as the first matchup began:
Spier and Boldurh.
Pownde and a few of his buddies sat next to me on the huge stands, but I rarely joined in on their conversations. I was too focused on the battle down below. I had to use my head, and before I could use my head I had to stock it with the necessary materials of thought. There was a famous quote out there that had been adopted into a creed by one of my history teachers. Apparently one of his teachers in college had done the same thing. It said:
“A mass of details stored up in the mind does not in itself make a thinker, but on the other hand, thinking is absolutely impossible without that mass of details.”
The mass of details that I would need to use to win my fights would come from the fights themselves. You had to know yourself and your own limitations, but it was also just as important to know your enemy. How does of he think? What does he do? What are his motivations? And more importantly, what are his weaknesses?
And how can you exploit them?