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When he returned to the commons the mood was unrecognizable. Most of the spectators left and instead of exhibitionist mentality, he felt seriousness from everyone else. When he was again readied for combat he looked closely at the electronic screen.


Tom Blanc vs. Yoh Yang


Tom started to ready blank and felt that it was ‘advantageous’ to remember this man’s name. Yoh was about Tom’s age with a well-defined physique.


From him, an aura of fervor grabbed the audience. Sally felt rather anxious while Tom felt nothing. Around his waist, a smallsword hung.


“Hello, you must be the boy who was sitting next to me,” Yoh broke the ice. He only continued on as they took their positions on the arena.


“I’ve fought a lot of swordsmen before, but never one who used a gun, too.”


Tom didn’t respond, or rather, he didn’t feel inclined too.


“I really see that you don’t want to mess with focus, that’s cool, but that method seems similar to maybe someone I know.”


Tom had fully prepped blank and saw an opportunity.


This man may be familiar with blank. It would prove to my advantageous to inquire later.


“Anyway, En guarde!” he said rather coolly.


Tom drew first his sword and charged with a lunge. He was quickly parried at first, but he was able to win two tradeoffs. He got a couple of small pokes on either shoulder. Through all the armor and rubber, it should’ve been painful but not cringingly so.


“It seems that I cannot beat you in sword fighting. Very Well! This just won’t due. I like winning, so I guess you won’t get mad if I use some unfair tactics,” he rambled on.


Yoh took his sword and threw it disdainfully on the floor. He followed suit with his sheath. Instead he took a unique stance.

No! It can’t be.


Tom’s blank slowly corroded away. He was stripped of his trump card, just as his enemy revealed his.
No, I have to calm down.


He witnessed Yoh’s wicked stance. He stood low, on the balls of his feet, he clenched his fists and inverted them, and he coiled his arms as so he could extend them effortlessly. Worst of all, he wore a diabolical smile.


“You’re not the only one who fights with an outdated weapon,” he said mockingly. Yoh later learned that he spent too much time talking.


I have restored blank to full capabilities. Though I may not be skilled at any martial arts, I can utilize any flaws in his movements.


Yoh attacked first this time. Tom tried to remember some of the advanced techniques that he could use to get an advantage on. He sidestepped his first punch and attacked with the sword then. He backed off and fired with his pistol.
Yoh clenched his body and covered his hurt shoulders. Tom watched in disbelief.


The rubber bullets and firearm were much weaker than those used in riot control, so they would only sting the slightest if he couldn’t get a direct hit. Yoh himself didn’t show any signs of pain.


On top of that, his enemy probably had equal or superior pain resistance to him, and surely comparably to his first opponent, he was conceivably unfeeling.


“I apologize for my silly stance. It’s self-taught; it’s hard to find a decent instructor,” Yoh boasted.


Tom had a vague plan, but decided not to use it yet; it was rather risky, even compared to his other ‘works of art’, as Sally called them.


Both had the same idea; both of them were injured and exhausted and whoever exploited a weakness first wins. Tom and Yoh both acknowledged that Tom had the advantage of reach, but Yoh’s Frankenstein martial arts had greater fluidity and flexibility.


They encircled each other like two boxers. Their careful movements were sometimes interrupted by Yoh’s tasteless comments. Sally conversed with Stein, while still studying the fighters in front of her. 

“There’s something that’s awfully wrong about Tom.”

“He doesn’t look like he’s performing to his best either.”


“No, even more than that, and also you really shouldn’t talk; you’re not even competing.” Sally was on-point, but she was a little ruder than what she meant. “Sorry, all I'm saying is that normally Tom would love this excitement.”


Stein stopped and asked what Sally was trying to say. She explained his blank method to Stein and added, “He shouldn’t do something that goes against his own wishes, especially in a brawl. Tom loved adventure, and now, his entire personality is washed out.”


While Yoh was talking, Tom decided to lunge.


If I can’t win with this, I can’t win at all.


His lunge was a miss, but he followed up with a slash that toyed with Yoh’s chest. He reached for his gun, but then Yoh finally snapped back into action. Yoh grabbed Tom’s other hand before he got to his holster. Then, he painfully elbowed Tom’s head; Tom dropped his weapons and felt a staggering impact of a fist to his stomach.


Tom fell to the floor and couldn’t recover. Before he could fight back, the judges declared his defeat. Yoh grinned ear to ear. They shook hands, and to Tom’s surprise, his clasp was gentler than when it plunked Tom. As soon as Tom turned off his blank, he felt embarrassed at the applause Yoh received. He didn’t hear any crude remarks from him and instead Yoh gestured for them to sit together.


Yoh went back and breezed through the semifinals. He endured through another round of applause. “Hey, Tom, right, are you OK. You took that last punch like it was nothing. I was sure I was stronger than that. Anyway, you seemed to react when I mentioned that odd determination, or lack thereof, that you had.”


“That’s right. I want you to tell me everything you know about that other practitioner,” Tom asked politely. It was an overwhelming request.


“OK, but it’s gonna be more of a story than an explanation. It was a couple of years ago, and I only got one look at her. It was a cold winter night, and I was foolish to be walking home. I decided to take a shortcut through Castle Susan’s city center. Suddenly, a darkling in the form of a gargoyle appeared. I did what any victim would logically do. I stumbled to the ground and panicked-”


“What does this have to do with meeting the other practitioner?” Tom asked impatiently.


“Oh, I got carried away with my storytelling. Thankfully, a knight jumped to my rescue. The knight who saved me wore a black armor, and I think you know what that means. She was an older one, and I can vaguely remember her appearance. She had long hair but her face… It was inhumane. It was very pretty, don’t get me wrong, but as she engaged the darkling, it was a strong one, her face was completely emotionless. No, even beyond that, her breathe was ever steady and her eyes were beyond calm. She asked me whether I was okay, but even then, there was no concern or fright in her voice.”


Yoh stopped for a moment and was then interrupted. An announcer with a bubbly voice announced the final round.

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Zarelliel

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