My match with Flaemuh was the first match in which I had remained relatively unscathed. I received some burns, but I was out of the Healing Center by the end of the day. I visited Pownde when I was let go and he was in a very pensive mood when I entered.
“Is everything all right?” I asked.
“Well… nothing is wrong if that’s what you mean.”
“Care to explain that?”
“I was told that if I want to continue in the tournament I have to fight in a match tomorrow.”
I sat bolt upright, “What?!”
“Yeah. My mind is telling me that there is no way I can win in my condition, but I still feel like I should at least try. This isn’t a chance that I’m going to get every day. I might be dead before the next tournament anyway. If I lose, I might get someone who will let me yield instead of killing me.”
I just stared open mouthed for a moment.
“Pownde you can’t be serious!”
“Hey that’s what I was just thinking… but I do believe I sort of am.”
“You’re facing Slyce. She defeated Pailadyn. Handily.”
“Yeah but she also let Pailadyn live.”
“It was the first round! She didn’t kill her because she wasn’t enough of a threat to warrant a killing blow.”
“Well then I’ll have to try not to be a threat.”
“So you’ll go in there with the intention of trying to lose.”
“But what if you’re wrong!?”
Pownde took a deep breath. “I don’t know much about Earth Juewuhl, but I’ve heard enough to know that you humans live a pitifully short life.”
“So?” I said, even though I knew where he was going.
“So you value life more than we do. I’ve probably lived a longer life than many of your earth citizens.”
“So you’re going to throw away a gift that nearly every Earth citizen would kill to have, just to satisfy some… some… macho instinct? Think with your head! Use this to make you stronger, and live to fight another day!”
“I get the point Juewuhl… it’s just… I need time to think ok?”
Which translated to: I know you’re right and I don’t like it, so go away please.
With a sigh I nodded and showed myself out, but not before saying,
“Keep in mind, even if you somehow win, you’ll have to fight me. Sleep well. I’ll drop by tomorrow morning.”
Then I left and for the first time since the beginning of the tournament, I made my way to the dorms. This would be the first night in nearly a week that I’d get to sleep in my own bed and not the Rest Center.
I almost stuck my head in Pailadyn’s room to see if she was there, but it was late and I needed rest.
At least, that’s what I told myself.
Compared to the beds in the rest center, mine was downright comfy. When I woke up the next morning I was under the impression that someone had woken me, but there was no one in my room that I could see. Well whatever it had been, it was very welcome to do so again, because without it I quite possibly would have slept through the day. The fights took a lot out of you.
And it was still only the beginning.
Pailadyn came bursting into my room as I was stretching.
“What is it?”
“Two things… I’ll start with the most important. You have a fight toda-“
“Didn’t you check the schedule?”
I hadn’t. I hadn’t gone back at all after my fight as a matter of fact.
“They switch to every day in the third round because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough fights to fill up a whole day.”
“What a pity…” I mumbled. “When does it start?”
I cursed and stormed out the door. Pailaydn followed after me and matched my steps so she could continue with her announcements I hoped this one would be better.
“Pownde has decided to fight.”
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
“I’m afraid not.”
“When is his fight?”
I was already sprinting down the hallway.
I should have figured that he’d still do it. It was just like him too. If he got himself killed I would…. I don’t know what I would do. Slyce would regret it though. As I approached the Arena, I checked a copy of the tournament bracket and my mouth just about fell to the floor. My next challenger was Sparke, but what concerned me was who I’d be fighting if I won.
I would fight the winner of the match between Pownde and Slyce.
It didn’t matter who won, I was still screwed over big time. Fight a champion or fight a good friend? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would choose the champion.
I made my way inside and saw Pownde on the defensive. He looked better than he had been the previous night, but he was still showing signs of pain in his movements. Somehow he hadn’t been injured yet, but his position was a precarious one. He was using his two small hammers in place of the one large one and it was all he could do to keep Slyce’s whirring axes away from his body. And then Pownde did something completely unexpected.
He sacrificed defense for a strike and ended up with a gash on his leg, but he managed to land both of his hammers on Slyce’s left arm. And judging by the sound of the loud crack, he actually broke it.
Slyce screamed and took a step back. Her arm was hanging limp at her side.
Pownde might actually have chance.
Which I then remembered was a bad thing.
Pownde had analyzed Slyce’s tactics and done exactly what was needed to neutralize them..
Slyce simply switched styles.
The axe on Slyces’s left arm retracted and her remaining weapon began to grow and sprout a new appendage. It became a large doube bladed battle-axe which looked heavier than I was, but Slyce didn’t seem to be exerting any effort whatsoever. She swung the axe with a speed I hadn’t anticipated.
Unfortunately, neither had Pownde.
He brought his hammers just in time to stop the blow from cutting him in half, but he still took a cut across his ribs. Slyce swung again and Pownde gave up on blocking and tried to jump over top of the cut.
He didn’t quite make it all the way and lost a foot in the process. As he fell screaming and clutching the bloody stump at the end of his leg, Slyce allowed her momentum to spin her in a circle and she continued bringing her axe around to chop Pownde’s head clean off.
My friend was dead.