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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everybody and thank you for your support!

So I've been binging a youtube channel called 'Tasting History with Max Miller'  which is a channel all about food from different historical periods. He basically finds and makes a recipe from the past, showing you to do it, then pauses while it cooks to teach a history lesson from the era the dish is from.

It's SUPER good. It really fits with scholagladiatoria and skallagrim stuff. :)

Alrighty, onto fighting!

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Fists slammed into Claygon from shifting directions. Shaleleath wasn’t as fast as Shining Slash, but he was still faster than Claygon.

Alex chewed his bottom lip, and considered the situation.

Had this been a real fight, dropping four fists in a flurry until Claygon punched through the illusions and got to the real Shaleleath, would have been a good tactic. He was capable of cracking a dune worm shell; so cracking Shaleleath with one blow or shattering the smaller golem’s limbs with a couple of blows would have been a possibility.

But, with the magic that stopped hits from being too damaging, the strategy of, ‘Well I only have to hit you once and you’re dead’—which had worked against the fast moving monsters on the Patrizia’s estate—just would not work here.

Even if he hit Shaleleath a couple of times, he’d still be able to just get back up.

So, Alex decided to use grappling techniques, trying to go for a pin, but Sim kept the real golem away from Claygon’s powerful arms. That left him with only illusions to grab.

‘Right, it’s time for the hit everything approach, then,’ Alex thought.

Claygon began to power the fire-gems.

Whooooom!

If he strafed all six Shaleleaths with his beams, that would not only destroy the illusions, but expose the real golem and knock him off balance.

Then he could grab-

Bang!

Another force blast slammed into Claygon’s head, throwing his aim off.

Voooosh!

The beams went wide again, allowing all six golems to jump away and avoid the blasts.

Ding!

The bell ended the round.

“Shaleleath! Shaleleath! Shaleleath!” the crowd chanted.

“Aaaah, shit,” Alex swore.

The scores went up.

10-8.

10-9.

10-8.

He’d lost two points from most of the judges.

And he couldn’t even disagree with the call: Sim had definitely dominated that round.

‘Alright Alex, no use brooding about it,’ he thought. ‘You lost. It wouldn’t be the first time. You fail often enough that The Mark reminds you about it when you’re trying to spell cast. Learn from it and move on. ‘Think. Adapt. Think. Adapt. Think. Adapt.’ What had he learned?

Sim’s magical items charged a hell of a lot faster than Claygon’s. If Alex were to guess, there might be a few reasons why: the magical effects were less powerful than the fire-gems, and Shaleleath was probably built to flood them with mana fast.

So, Sim would always be able to hit Alex’s golem with that force blast whenever he saw Claygon’s fire-gems charging.

That didn’t mean that the fire-gems were out, it just meant that he would need to use them very carefully.

What else had he learned?

‘Well, that illusion he’s using is annoying,’ he thought. ‘But besides that, it also gives off the illusion of Shaleleath’s mana, so I can’t just sense out which one’s the real golem.’

What else?

Movements.

He focused The Mark on learning Shaleleath’s movements in the rest of the two minutes they had between rounds. He reviewed them quickly, comparing them with Shining Slash’s movements and those of his other opponents.

‘Huh,’ he thought. ‘There’s something.’

Shaleleath’s movements were…not exactly polished.

Alex thought about how warriors like Grimloch and Theresa fought, how dancer-warriors like Fan-Dor and Gel-Dor moved, and the body language of others, both experienced combatants, and non-combatants.

There was a certain balance to the way trained fighters moved that people who weren’t used to fighting or dancing did. The stances of the Spear-and-Oar Dance focused on always keeping one’s weight grounded; a proper stance would make the dancer hard to throw off balance.

Even when they were in motion, they moved with grace, always keeping their balance controlled and centred. Even Shining Slash—an imposing brass golem whose bulk could have made him really clumsy—moved with that kind of balance.

Shaleleath wasn’t as fast or as poised as Shining Slash, though.

‘Judging by his movements, Sim’s probably not much of a fighter,’ Alex thought. He’s a crafter by profession, not some battlemage…okay. I think I have an idea.’

“Fighters, get ready!” the announcer called.

Shaleleath and Claygon took their positions on either side of the arena.

Begin!” the announcer signalled the start of round two.

Sending a thought to Claygon, Alex had the golem drop into the second stance of the Spear-and-Oar Dance and raise all four arms into Cleansing Movement positions.

Shaleleath immediately split into his five copies, and all began moving toward Claygon cautiously.

Sim was ahead in points.

So, he had no reason to be aggressive now.

‘That’s right Sim, ready that force blast of yours,’ Alex thought.

Vooooom.

Claygon’s fire-gems began to charge.

Broam!

The spiked blasts of force shot from the Shaleleaths’ chest, arcing toward Claygon’s head-

Crack!

Mentally guiding Claygon’s movements, he snapped all four arms up into a block that ‘guided’ the force blast away.

Crack!

Five of the blasts dispersed, while the sixth hit the brass bars.

Sim’s eyes widened.

Claygon advanced, swaying his arms like snakes. The power continued building in the fire-gems.

Broam!

More force blasts flew at Alex’s golem, but he dug his heels into the stone and continued swaying his arms rapidly, deflecting the force away.

The tactic was working as Claygon’s four enormous arms angled to deflect multiple force blasts, including the illusionary ones.

Then the fire-gems finished charging.

Whoooosh!

Three beams blasted through the air and struck the horde of Shaleleaths, splitting the illusions apart and sending the real golem stumbling back. Alex then aimed one of the beams at the smaller golem’s right leg, collapsing it, sending it crashing to the ground like a stone.

Claygon charged the fallen golem with all four arms spread out while Shaleleath tried getting back on his feet, lacking the graceful movement of Shining Slash.

More illusions began forming around him, but the fiery explosions stopped them cold.

Crash!

The crowd roared as Claygon dropped down on Shaleleath’s back.

One! Two!” the announcer called. “Pin!”

“One knockdown. One pin,” Alex thought.

He let Shaleleath up, already charging the fire-gems. The stone golem scrambled to its feet and gave ground. It looked like Sim didn’t want to risk another pin.

So, Alex went on the offensive.

More illusions formed around Shaleleath.

Whoooosh.

The fire-beams lanced through the air, blasting the stones around him. Alex lowered Claygon’s centre of balance and advanced on Shaleleath. His lower arms rose up to guard against more force blasts or flying fists.

More came.

Broaam!

Boom! Boom!

Fists and force blasts—some real and some illusionary—blasted into the clay golem’s defences, but with Claygon’s lowered centre of balance, he wasn’t budging.

Shaleleath backed away as its fists returned and re-attached to its arms.

“Got you,” Alex whispered.

Whooosh!

More fire-beams sprayed out, blowing apart the replicas. Alex angled the two beams from Claygon’s palms to box Shaleleath in, while the third blasted around the stone golem, hindering it from manoeuvering.

Booom! Boom! Boom!

Claygon charged.

Booooom!

Shaleleath fired both stony fists and the force blast at the same time, but Claygon’s lower hands were already coming up as he was redirecting his forehead beam.

The beam ripped the force blast apart.

Whoosh!

Sim’s golem’s fists were shooting directly at Claygon.

Clack! Clack!

Claygon’s hands caught the flying fists, gripping them tightly.

“I guess that means you’re…disarmed,” Alex smiled at his own joke.

Crash!

Claygon tackled the smaller golem into the cage, pressing it against the bars, then he grabbed one of its stony stumps and threw it to the ground.

He picked Shaleleath back up, and slammed it against the bars two more times before pinning the golem in place.

One…two! Pin!” the announcer cried.

Alex had Claygon let Shaleleath go again, backing off slightly.

Then he snapped his fists up.

The illusions formed again, but now Shaleleath was cornered.

Claygon’s fists struck out, crashing through the images and knocking Shaleleath against the bars. The smaller golem couldn’t run and he had no hands to use, since Claygon was clutching them within his own fists.

Ding!

Finally, the bell rang.

Ding!

Both golems returned to their corners—but first, Claygon gave Shaleleath its arms back— as the crowd loudly stomped the ground.

Alex looked up at the scores.

10-4.

10-4.

10-4.

“That’s a good round,” he said as the crowd cheered.

Sim just shook his head across the field and gave a bitter laugh.

The next round began aggressively.

Sim needed to get some knockdowns or wins if he had any hope of turning the match around. So, he had Shaleleath come in hard, spreading his illusionary replicas while charging in.

Claygon charged right back.

Broooam!

That’s when the force blast fired at one of Claygon’s legs mid-stride.

“Shit,” Alex swore.

Booom!

The ground shook as his golem tripped on the force blast, landing hard. Shaleleath rushed for him, trying for a pin, but Alex had Claygon roll and use his lower arms, trying to quickly right himself. Sim fired both fists and another force blast into two of Claygon’s arms to stop him getting to his feet.

It was a pretty good tactic for someone who didn’t have much experience in fighting.

“Guess there’s more than one reason you made it this far, Sim,” Alex thought, as he concentrated on charging Claygon’s fire-gems.

Shaleleath was almost beside Claygon and was preparing to leap on the bigger golem—to grab and pin him from behind—but Alex had his golem roll on his back and aim all three fire-gems at Shaleleath.

Whooooom!

The stone golem screeched to a halt, trying to jump away but-

Vooooosh!

Two beams caught its side, blasting it backward, sending it to the ground. Claygon got up and charged while the stone golem was struggling to stand.

Crack!

A massive kick swept through the clustered illusionary replicas, blasting them apart and sending the real Shaleleath skidding along the ground.

“Two knockdowns,” Alex said quietly. “Now what?”

Sim’s next move was to try taking Claygon down with more force blasts to the leg, but he kept his legs steady and planted, his feet anchored in place. Shaleleath charged, trying to kick his legs out.

But, it was too little, too late.

Ding!

The scores came in.

9-8.

9-8.

9-8.

“Winner of round three and the match is Claygon, representing Alex Roth!” the announcer roared and the crowd roared with him.

Alex and Sim approached each other and shook hands in the middle of the arena.

“That golem of yours is kickass,” Alex said.

“I could say the same,” Sim said. “You really know how to handle it too.”

“We’ve been practising together, a lot,” Alex said.

They clasped each other’s hands and raised them high as the crowd chanted Claygon’s name. Alex had Claygon take a bow before they left the arena floor and made their way back down to the waiting chamber. He and Sim chatted for a bit before saying their goodbyes, then he took a deep breath, and sat back down to wait.

Slowly, the competition dwindled.

Mad Stan and Ozzie got knocked out a couple of matches later, but each time Tyris went up, she would soon be back down with her head held high.

Her opponents would exit shortly afterward.

Alex glanced at the few competitors remaining.

“If we make it to the final round, we might be facing Tyris for the grand prize,” he muttered to Claygon. “Hear that big guy? Now we just got to win our final few matches and then-”

“Next match! Alex Roth and Claygon vs. Tyris Goldtooth and Vesuvius!”

Alex was startled.

“Oh shit, nevermind, buddy. I guess we face her right the hell now.”

Tyris looked up from across the room and slowly gave him a thumbs up. The orange glow smouldered from the top of Vesuvius’ shell.

A golden glint shone in her smile.

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

And here we go. No meeting the rival in the finals, for you Alex. Let's go!


Big thanks to all my readers—I appreciate each and every one of you—and a very special thanks to my patrons on my Patreon. There's up to 20 advanced chapters ahead on patreon as thanks for support!

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