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The tournament’s third round pits me against a large bulk of a man. He holds a gigantic sword that may weigh more than I do. The ref reassures me that the sword’s heft won’t be an issue for the dispersal field.

“Match 2404, entrant 792 Anessa and entrant 12758 Ronald McEval. Begin!”

For his size and the weight of his sword, Ronald is quick enough on his feet. His first act is to rush forward with his sword over his head. The sword goes down toward my head in slow motion.

Surprise hits me as I stand to one side: Ronald rotates his blade so the flat of it faces me and tries to smack me with it.

A sigh escapes my lips as I look at Ronald’s posture. He’s almost seven foot tall and his feet are planted wide. Knocking him off balance would be difficult without breaking his leg.

With Ronald’s hands in the air and his feet firm against the ground he’s wide open. He is used to intimidation, but I don’t bite. Time to end this match; I run under him and use a one knuckle punch to his diaphragm. My fist begins to sink into his chest, my breakthrough more than doubled my base strength. My fist stops its advance against my own accord and the built up force I have fades.

“Winner 792,” The ref calls as the dissipation field activates.

Ronald’s sword clatters to the ground and he doubles over in a fit of coughs.

“You okay?” I wonder.

Half a minute passes and Ronald stops gasping for air. He stoops to pick up his sword then extends his gargantuan hand to me and smiles.

He needs to work on his smiles. He looks like a robber about to get what he wants. I take his hand and give it a shake.

“I’m fine, thanks fer askin’” Ronald confirms. He rubs his chest, “Ya’ pack a big punch fer a little girl.” He makes a fist and extends it, our fists tap. He adds, “I hope ya’ make it to the finals. I’d like a rematch.”

If Ronald makes it, I’ll be surprised. There’s probably a lot of people here who are faster than he is.


My fourth through sixth matches are a cake walk. Ronald may have a better chance than I thought. My seventh and last match before the finals pits me against Gibalter.

We both focus on using our bare fists and feet. I’m wearing a skin-tight jumpsuit that fades from blue to cyan to complement my orange to dark red hair. My chest is covered by a hardened white porcelain composite, as are my knees, and elbows.

Gibalter seems to be covered in much the same, altered to fit his male form and in pitch black. Another thing that is different is a bit distracting. He seems to be wearing a jock strap fashioned like a codpiece, or I hope that is what it is. The gold stitching in the area make its form apparent.

It takes everything I have to not stare and burst out in laughter. At least he knows which way is up. Keep it together Anessa, it’d be stupid to lose because he catches you off guard thinking those thoughts.

“Begin!”

Gibalter starts by snapping his fingers and three translucent images of him split from his form. They then form a line, I suspect to make it less clear which is him. He might not know it but the original is obvious for me.

This may be a training opportunity. I should treat the fakes as though they are real. Gibalter’s first copy reaches me, and I block its attack. What surprises me is it makes solid contact and a curse escapes my lips for thinking this would be a good time to train.

The spot it hits stings on my forearm. His real form attacks and as I deflect his blow my palm breaks out in blisters in an instant.

Damn it! He converted fire essence at the last moment as my bare hand touched his fist. If I had known I could’ve countered the heat and avoided the burn.

One of Gibalter’s copies receives a punch to the face and my fist moves through it, unimpeded. The copy catches me in the side with its fist and knocks the wind out of me.

They can hit me but I can’t hit them? Like that’s fair. Not that I have a lot of room to complain about advantages.

My distraction by the copy costs me as Gibalter catches me in the side of the nose. A dull pop and a blinding pain greet me as my head snaps to the side. It takes a few steps to dissipate the force of his blow. Another snap and I reposition my nose where it should be. As luck would have it the pain fades.

Now I’m pissed and look at him as my nose bleeds onto my chest. Seconds later the blood flow stops as my body strengthening art kicks in. It stops the blood but not much more than that. The ringing in my ears hasn’t gone away.

“Nice shot,” I say with a smile.

Gibalter says nothing but returns my grin. My eyes have trouble tracking all four of his forms as he and his copies increase their speed.

Time to stop mucking around. The Dancer of Death gives the impression of a gauge to control yourself. My muscles tense as I switch it up a notch and I launch myself forward straight toward Gibalter.

Missed, Gibalter ducks at the last possible moment and my kick goes right over his head. Before he can capitalize on this I nudge the art up another notch and try to redirect my force into a backward kick. Physics disagrees as my shoes lack the traction needed to do so and I slide forward.

My other foot stomps on the arena floor and I push forward toward him once I’ve stabilized. Gibalter’s been playing me this entire match, it’s apparent as he dodges right when I think I’m going to hit him. This time once I’ve passed him he tags me in the gut, and follows up with a swipe under my legs. He helps my fall along by placing his hand on my shoulder and pushing in the opposite direction.

Air escapes from my lungs and I start to pivot above the arena. Since my breakthrough I haven’t tried pushing myself to my max speed. I wanted to pace myself since I haven’t adapted to the changes yet but Gibalter’s not giving me a choice.

Pushing speed to the max grants me needles of pain in my muscles. Gibalter and his copies appear to be moving through molasses now. He had started to follow his leg sweep with a knee to my midsection. While I can’t change how fast I fall I can move. His extended knee is a welcome holding point as I reposition myself.

Upright and ready I use a simple kick to his face. It’s comical to see his eyes widen and irises dart toward my foot in slow motion, but the joke’s on me: before my foot makes contact I notice the corner of his mouth creep upward, and my foot goes through him!

Gibalter’s form turns transparent and something slams into my back harder than ever before. Ten steps to dissipate the attack takes me to the edge of the arena. Before I can turn to assess the situation he hits me again and nudges me off the platform.

“Winner 15.”

Gibalter hops off the arena where I fell and holds out his hand. “Nice match. I’m lucky you’re terrible.”

“Thanks, I needed a lesson in humility,” I admit as I hold my back. Not sure what hurts worse, the fist to the kidney or the fact that I never landed a single blow.

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A note from Allen Clark Copeland, Jr.

Edited 11/6/2019 at 8:28 PM.

Thanks to Lord Astrea for insight on how to improve the flow. Here's hoping this is an improvement.

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Allen Clark Copeland, Jr.

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