Zack watched the spearhead of his opponent as it was swung across the air in front of him, and then attacked him with a thrust.
Zack sidestepped and then slipped past the spear, swinging Galadhar. Then he smacked his opponent in the forehead, blinding him for a moment, enough to bring Galadhar down again on the spear, With the sound of ringing metal, the spear clattered to the floor of the arena.
Cheers rose from the audience as they hurried forward to greet him as he and his opponent stepped out of the arena.
"Zack, that was awesome!"
"Teach me how to disarm fast!"
"Yeah, you should! And - in three weeks, you've bumped up four levels, too!"
"How lucky," Astrid grumbled, squatting on the floor with an ice-cream cone, frowning at Zack.
Weston made a face. "I spent a few creds paying for that ice-cream because she seemed depressed since you became a Level 54, beating her by the one level that she only rose to last week."
"Weston also got to Level 54 just yesterday, so you two are pretty much even," said Zack's opponent cheerfully; though dazed by his loss, he was still in awe at Zack's skills.
At that compliment, Weston looked away. "Well, of course. Thanks for reminding me about that. Zack was the first to beat me, I can't let him beat me a second time. So the next time we Gladiate, Zack's gonna lose."
"You're actually easy to flatter, Weston," said Zack.
They all materialized a hologram screen and tapped out a the return code to reappear back at the Dome. In the three weeks Zack had gotten used to Redwall, Astrid and Weston had become fast friends with him, and several Gladiators were in awe about him.
"The new rules for the Gladiator Games are really terrifying this year," said Astrid after the three of them had said goodbye to the other Gladiators and left the Dome towards a cafe down the street. "It was announced just this morning. Mikey wasn't pleased about it."
"The rules? Gladiator Games?" Weston gasped. "They're out? They're fast this year!"
"Actually, no, we aren't fast, we just got started," said Astrid.
"What?! Just got started?!"
Zack pulled out his phone and after surfing about online, he said, "Oh, found the announcement. It says that . . . you've got to be a Level 65 to enter the Games . . . if you're not at that level in the two weeks of the selections, you can't enter . . ." he trailed off.
"Uh-huh. Director decided on the two rules and didn't change his mind," said Astrid.
"Too hard. This is too hard," Weston muttered. "I can pass ten Levels in three or four months. That's too long for the selections."
"I can do it in . . . I don't know, I don't count," said Zack. "I might not make it either . . ."
"Excuse me!" shouted a voice that startled all three of them.
They all turned around in surprise.
"Hey! I was looking for you!" called the voice from among the streets. "I'm so sorryyyy!"
"An . . . apology?" Zack mumbled. "Who? What?"
And then a blond-haired kid appeared, charging straight at Zack at full speed. Instead, the kid landed onto Weston, when Zack dodged him.
"Whoa!" Weston yelped as he fell over. "Get off me, you're heavy!"
"I'm so sorry!" the kid yelped, scrambling to his feet. He spun around, then found Zack, and said, "I'm really sorry for the other day!"
"What? What? Huh?" Zack looked at the kid blankly, unable to comprehend anything.
Weston sat up and recognized the kid. "Oh, you're . . . Elian, right?"
"Who's that?" asked Zack.
"You can't have forgotten! Three weeks ago, before you were brought to the hospital for exhaustion, you were saving him from a gang that attacked a Dome. His name was Elian!"
"I didn't know you were taken to a hospital after that! I was worried if you were badly hurt!" Elian wailed.
"Oh, yeah, I remembered," said Zack, suddenly grinning. "Actually, no worries. I wondered how you were doing."
"I'm so sorry!"
"I said, it was fine."
"Sorry." Elian dropped his head. "Actually, I've been looking for you since I heard that you were in a hospital. At that time, before you were settled with everything-"
"He ran," said Weston. "Elian freaked out and fled, being the type of guy who gets embarrassed easily."
"How'd you know that part?" asked Elian, staring at Weston.
"I'm the Keeper of the Dome, and I've seen you running around after winning against an opponent," sighed Weston. "You still apologised."
"I . . . guess that's true," said Elian with a sigh.
"Have I told you my name?" asked Zack.
Elian looked at him, startled.
"It's Zack. Your name's Elian, right?"
An explosion cut them off, and smoke began to rise towards the sky as they realized that it was from the Synchron Organization.
"No! That's my team's office floor!" Astrid gasped, seeing a cloud of smoke leaking from a large hole in the side of the building.
"Forget a snack at a cafe!" Zack grumbled as he patted Elian on the shoulder. "Sorry, Elian, we gotta go!"
"We'll see you later!" Weston called.
Elian watched after them, an amazed expression on his face.