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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everyboooodyyyy! Thank you for your support!

Soooo I am late for my irl writers' group so I gotta run! Sorry! Today's been a hell of a day lol.

Let's get into the chapter!

The scores came up.

10-6.

10-7.

10-6.

“Alright, there’s one round,” Alex said as the crowd roared; he waved toward his friends and family, making sure it was less ‘awkward little greeting’ and more ‘Khalik addressing the crowd.’

Claygon and Shining Slash went to their respective corners.

He had to admit, his earlier jitters were mostly gone.

‘Right, right, analysis time,’ he thought. Baelin would be hugely disappointed in him if he didn’t use a break in combat to examine his opponent’s strengths, weaknesses and potential future actions.

He looked over at Arlando, who was still bright red in the face and glaring daggers at him. Alex scratched the back of his head awkwardly. He had a feeling that if the announcer hadn’t emphasised that points would be lost if anyone acted like an angry child during a match, then Arlando would probably have a few choice words—or maybe fists—for him.

His body language—the way he moved, stiffly and aggressively—screamed exactly how he was feeling about Alex at the moment.

‘So he’s angry and he’s down on points,’ Alex thought. ‘I can use that. If I were a betting man, I’d bet he’ll have Shining Slash come at Claygon all stark, raging mad. He’ll want to hit him fast at first, then get out of his reach. He’s faster than Claygon, so skirmishing would be-No wait.’

He glanced at the points on the board. ‘He’s way behind on points, so he’ll need to do something more decisive than just hit-and-runs or he’ll lose.’

This wasn’t like the fights in The Barrens: neither of their lives were at risk. Barrens-monsters would retreat when wounded, like the xyrthak did, but the goal here wasn’t to life or death. It was to get the most points.

So, if Alex were Arlando, how would he go about doing that?

‘Legs,’ Alex thought, glancing at Claygon’s powerful legs and feet. ‘Going for a pin would be pretty pointless: size and strength aren’t always the decider in wrestling, but Claygon had so much more mass and strength on Shining Slash, that trying to pin him would stupid. Claygon could reverse an attempt at pinning him, no problem. …so that leaves knockdowns. If it looks like Claygon’s weight’s off balance, then that’d be a perfect time to go for a trip.’

He kept his face neutral. ‘Let’s make that seem like a good strategy for him, eh Claygon?’

“Get ready!” the announcer cried.

Shining Slash turned back toward its opponent and spun its blades.

‘Smack those fists together, buddy,’ Alex thought to Claygon.

Thm. Thm.

Claygon clashed his four fists together twice.

The crowd roared, and several of the illusions focused on close ups of the golems’ weapons and fists.

Now, this was getting to be bags of fun.

Ding!

The bell ran again, signalling the start of round two.

This time, Shining Slash proved to be the aggressor—just as Alex had thought—darting forward with all ten pommels swinging.

Claygon charged toward the brass golem, powering up the fire-gems again. Their glow reflected off the brass golem’s polished surface, but Alex didn’t let them fully charge.

He just let their ominous glow shine from his golem’s forehead and palms.

Shining Slash jumped away, trying to use its superior speed to duck around Claygon, but the clay golem had much better reach and stalked after his opponent, driving all four of his fists forward to seemingly try and knock down the smaller golem.

‘Trigger the idea that risk will bring reward,’ Alex thought. ‘Slow down those fists, just a bit, Claygon.’

Blows slowed slightly as though Claygon were trying to take more time and precision with each strike, and Shining Slash took advantage.

Clack! Clack! Clack! Clack!

The crowd roared as the brass golem struck those big clay fists while they were still extended, the pommels snapping against the unyielding surfaces.

‘That’s it, now we’ll be the desperate ones for a bit,’ Alex thought.

He put on an expression of dismay and anger, pointing at Shining Slash. Now Claygon began lunging at it, making wide, sweeping grabs with all four arms.

‘Little more aggressive, buddy,’ he thought. He watched Arlando’s face and Claygon’s legs.

His opponent was watching the golem with utter concentration. A lot of his anger from earlier was still there, but he looked a hell of a lot calmer now.

Alex ’s eyes flicked to the brass golem as it danced around Claygon with its ten pommels striking again and again. He had to admit, it was a beautiful construct. Its attacks were no mindless flailings; Alex had practised enough of the Spear-and-Oar dance to know a beautiful combat style when he saw one.

Arlando must have put a lot of work into the golem core to get Shining Slash to move like that. From where Alex stood, he could feel the mana surging from it as it danced around.

Respect rose in his chest.

Though, he wasn’t about to forget that he was an opponent.

And he just…needed him to…take…the…bait…

Claygon’s leg lifted high. His arms over-extended slightly.

Shining Slash darted in as the larger golem appeared to be losing balance.

Four swords shot out, hooking the cross-guards around the back of Claygon’s leg, ready to pull him completely off balance and to the ground.

‘Jerk your leg back!’ Alex thought.

Claygon yanked his leg back abruptly, pulling Shining Slash off-centre and sending him tumbling to the ground in a heap of brass.

‘Knock down,’ Alex thought.

Claygon fell as well, but Alex gave him commands to control the fall: he landed overtop Shining Slash, he was planted on two of his hands while the other two grabbed the brass golem’s limbs and pressed it into the ground.

“No!” Arlando shouted.

Shining Slash jerked beneath Clagyon, but with the larger golem’s powerful grip on its leg and a pair of its arms, there was no way it was going to budge him.

“One…two! Pin!” the announcer shouted.

The crowd cheered as Alex let the brass golem up.

‘And now for the second punch,’ Alex thought.

“Charge!” Arlando shouted.

Now even more desperate for any sort of points he could make Alex lose, he had Shining Slash rush Claygon.

Whoooom.

So Alex finished charging the fire-gems.

Vooooosh!

The beams of fire-magic slammed right into Shining Slash as it recklessly charged in.

Booom!

Fiery explosions ripped through the arena, roaring through the air as the crowd screamed and cheered. The explosions weren’t enough to knock the nine hundred and fifty pound brass golem off its feet, but it stumbled.

Claygon grabbed it by an arm, turned—swinging through the air to gather momentum—then flung it straight up. Shining Slash flew at least twenty feet above Claygon’s head before tumbling to the ground in front of him.

Alex had Claygon cock two of his fists back.

Wham!

He drove both of them into Shining Slash at the same time.

Crash! Crash! Skkrrrrrrrrr!

The brass golem bounced off the arena floor twice before coming to a skidding, grinding halt against the stones.

“No mas!” Arlando shouted, waving his hands back and forth. “No mas! No mas!”

Alex had studied enough languages by now to translate that from Guadianan: ‘No more!’

The crowd went quiet.

The announcer held up his hand. “Arlando Duran has yielded on the field, the winner of the match is Claygon representing Alex Roth!”

The crowd hollered and cheered.

Alex turned to the stands and waved at his friends and family. He could see the distant little form of Selina clapping as hard as she could and jumping up and down. Good. It looked like she was having a good time.

And—if he was honest—so was he.

‘One match down,’ he thought.

He won his next few matches—very handily—through a mix of analysis and good-ol’ fashioned overwhelming force. Claygon was a force to be reckoned with, and even in the super-heavy weight challenge, he was able to overwhelm many of the large monsters he was up against.

As the tournament went on, the adversaries—in each match—were becoming more powerful ones. Alex needed to think and plan his way through each fight by trying to leave as little to chance as he could as the competition came in with more experience.

Still, he was able to get through each match, some by a wide margin in points and some by a narrow one.

Between rounds he returned to the waiting chamber. It was growing emptier as time went on and more competitors were eliminated. Once he even saw a fist fight break out between a victor and a loser who had to be parted by some of the more hulking staff members.

Three constants remained in the room, though, Sim, Stan and Tyris. There were no illusions that allowed the competitors to watch other matches from the waiting chamber, but each time two fighters went up for a match, they would be back down after it for one of them to re-take their seat, and the other to head out the main exit door.

Soon, however, two familiar names were called by a staff-member.

“Alex Roth and Claygon versus Sim Shale and Shaleleath!”

Alex looked over at Sim, who was rising from his seat in the waiting chamber. “Good luck, mate!”

“Same to you!” Sim called back.

They made their way back to the arena to the roar of the crowd. The cheers had definitely gotten louder and more excited during the later rounds for both Alex and his opponents.

It was the same now.

“Shale-leath! Shale-leath! Shale-leath!” some of the crowd shouted in a cheery chant.

“Claaaaaygoooon! Claaaaaygooon! Claaaaaygoooon!” roared other spectators.

The cheers for Claygon sounded a bit more ominous somehow.

Well, if his earlier fight might have made it seem like he was the fodder to Arlando’s quiet hero, then now he would definitely be the villain to anyone looking in from the outside.

Shaleath was even smaller than Shining Slash, and while Claygon looked like…well, he looked like a hulking, four-armed monster with sharp teeth and three eyes, Shaleleath looked like a heroic version of Sim himself.

A well-built hero, versus a towering monster.

“Except I might be the underdog here,” Alex muttered.

When he’d been near Shaleleath, he could feel the mana thrumming from the golem. It wasn’t quite like the overwhelming power Claygon gave off, but it was clear that Sim had made some upgrades to the basic stone golem design.

And that made sense—his mother owned and worked in one of the most successful golem workshops in all of Generasi—of course, Sim’s golem wouldn’t be the run-of-the mill construct.

‘He could have anything embedded in there,’ Alex thought. ‘Rods that shoot electricity, protective shields, other attack spells…defences, he’d have access to a lot more magical items than I did when I was making Claygon. Of course, more magic items need more mana to create connections between them and the golem core. More pathways, meant more complexity, and more mana. There’s probably a limit to how many magical items he has embedded in there then. Ugh, I’m trying to think without data. Maybe he doesn’t have any embedded magic items in there at all. Maybe just see what happens.’

He had Claygon bang his fists together twice, then drop into the first stance of the Spear-and-Oar Dance.

Sim spread his hands dramatically in a kind of: ‘come at me’ gesture.

Shaleleath did the same.

The announcer raised his hand. “Who will come out on top? Ready? Begin!”

The crowd cheered.

‘Shock and Awe,’ Alex thought.

Whoooom.

The fire-gems began to charge and glow with crimson light.

Shaleleath approached Claygon cautiously, edging closer. Alex’s eyes flicked to Sim, watching for any tells or odd movements.

Sim was completely still, simply watching Claygon.

The fire-gems had nearly finished charging.

‘Opening shot,’ Alex thought.

Vooooo-

Claygon’s fire-gems prepared to fire.

Mana flared from Shaleleath. Something was charging up inside of it.

And it was charging up fast.

Broooam!

A wave of force magic blasted out of Shaleleath’s chest, quickly forming a spherical force construct with spikes sticking out, like the head of a morning star.

Bang!

It blasted into Claygon’s head, sending him stumbling back, throwing off his aim. Alex had him plant his foot back to steady himself.

-ooooosh!

The fire-beam from his head blasted into the cage’s bars, exploding against the magical brass bars. The beams from his hands also went off-target, drawing long lines of explosions along the ground.

Then Shaleleath extended one of his fists.

But he was still too far away from-

Boom!

With a blast of force magic, Shaleleath’s fore-arm rocketed off his body—trailing force magic like a firework—and slammed into Claygon’s trunk, making him flinch.

The fist flew back to Sim’s golem, quickly re-attaching.

Alex gaped.

“Really?” he said. “Force magic powered flying fists? That’s awesome!”

But from the look on Sim’s face, he could see that not all had gone as planned. Maybe he’d expected the attacks to knock Claygon back or even down.

But that wasn’t going to work much here.

“You’re gonna have to do better than that, Sim,” Alex muttered, mentally ordering his golem to close the distance between him and Shaleleath.

Claygon charged forward.

His fist cocked back.

And then suddenly Shaleleath split into six Shaleleaths.

“What the hell?” Alex cried.

It was like Thundar’s Illusionary Duplicate spell, except there were five copies of Shaleleath.

The crowd erupted.

The half a dozen stone golems jumped at Claygon in a confusing mass, Alex couldn’t tell which one was the real one.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Stone smashed against clay, as the real stone golem struck Claygon repeatedly while he tried swinging at all of them. Each time the large golem blasted apart an illusion with one of his four fists, another would form to replace it.

“…I take back what I said about having to do better, Sim.”

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Mirror image is such a bullshit spell lol. Alrighty, cya tomorrow!


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