“Please, I just got here,” Janus said as he put his hands up in front of himself in a defensive pose while his back pressed into the corner between his seat and the wall. “I don’t have any Tokens. I don’t even have an Implant.”
“She’s not going to rob you,” Itzel snapped. “Eni is low, but she’s not that low. I know exactly what she’s got on her mind.”
“Can’t stand that we know each other so well,” Enidri said with a frown. She let her weapon rest to her side, etching a long black mark into the ground as it grazed the tile floor. “How much are you willing to put down on a Ranked Challenge?”
“I’m not doing another Ranked Challenge with you, Eni.” Itzel rolled her eyes. “Do you know how many positions I’ll drop if you beat me? I’m too many spots above you to gain any points from a win.”
“You’re always talking about how you’re gonna make it big in Rumble Circuit. How are you going to do that if you’re terrified of losing a few points?” Enidri replied mockingly with her finger pointing towards Itzel.
“You two are going to fight?” Janus butted in. “Maybe we can talk something out. No one needs to get hurt.” Both women looked at him, giving him a total of three irked eyes.
“This guy really doesn’t know anything, does he?” Enidri asked.
“Challenge,” Gurk said.
“Challenge? What does that mean in this situation?” Janus looked around the table as the feeling of embarrassment overcame him. “Safe to assume you two are going to fight, right? She’s got a laser sword, Itzel.” Janus stood up and looked at the ground by Enidri’s feet. “I can see it burning a hole in the floor right now!”
“It’s a Challenge!” Itzel exclaimed with a roll of her eyes. “No one really gets hurt in a Ranked Challenge, alright? No need to start crying and screaming for help like you did in that alley with the Lurkers.”
“Seven grand,” Enidri said. “If you even have that much.”
“Of course I do,” Itzel faced her rival again, now with her arms crossed as she stepped out of the booth. Enidri moved to the side so she could face the other woman. Their difference in height became more apparent now that Itzel was standing completely upright. She stood roughly a head above her. “But if you’re going to make me risk my hard-earned ranking, you’ll have to offer more than that.”
“Come on, let’s get going, Gurk,” Itzel said as she waved at the crocodile. “It’s obvious that Eni just wants to waste our time.” The crocodile stood up from his seat and began to follow Itzel towards the door. Enidri turned her head, clenching her empty hand into a fist as she watched the other pair walk towards the restaurant’s exit.
“Fine!” Enidri shouted. “Forty thousand!” The two other customers and the employee behind the counter watched the scene unfold with bated breath.
Itzel froze mid step. By the way she slowly turned around and her eyes widened, it was clear that nerves had gotten to her. “D-do you even have that much?” she said. The swordswoman brought up a screen via her Implant. Janus watched from behind as she shifted through menus. He could hear a few blips and chimes as she waved her hand through the air. Enidri took hold of an intangible corner of the floating screen and spun it around so that Itzel could see it.
“All you have to do is press ‘accept.’” On her screen were two giant buttons; one said “Accept” while the other said “Decline.” Above it was a long and elaborate message that detailed the terms and conditions of the duel that neither party had ever fully read before. The important information was in between that and the options. “Wager: 40,000 Tokens.”
“Let me discuss this with my business partner. I’ll get right back to you.” Itzel put one hand on Gurk’s back and brought him in for a huddle. “Listen big guy,” she whispered. “I know that you just spent a decent chunk of your money on a third of a meal, but do you at least have ten grand on you?”
Gurk brought up his banking information and nodded.
“Alright. Can you send it to me? You know I can take her.”
Gurk looked at the number on his bank account and then at Itzel. His eyes were bigger than usual. “If you can’t Gurk…” she whispered.
The crocodile pressed a few buttons. She felt a tingle in her hand where her Implant was located and brought up her account. She was ten thousand Tokens richer.
“Thanks, Gurk. I’ll make sure to split the winnings with you.”
“Better win,” he grumbled. Itzel gave him a wink and a pat on the back before stepping towards the center of the restaurant.
“You got yourself a Challenge, Enidri!” Itzel marched forward, a soft wind gushing out through every corner of the restaurant as she advanced towards the floating screen. Janus hopped out of his booth and dashed beside Gurk to watch Itzel from a distance. She pressed the accept button floating in front of Enidri. The one-eyed woman cracked a sinister grin as she drew her blade, holding it in her right hand with it pointed downwards at her side. “Gurk!” Itzel exclaimed. Her body remained facing her opponent, her hands poised in front of her in a karate-like stance, but her head looked behind her towards her partner. “Make sure that you hit the Broadcast button this time, alright?”
“Broadcast?” Janus asked aloud. Gurk brought up his screen and activated the command as Itzel requested. Janus tried peeking around the crocodile’s body to get a view of his screen. Upon realizing that he was trying to get of view of his Implant’s projection, Gurk stepped aside to give him room to watch.
“What’s going on here?” Janus inquired as he peered into the display. He saw the Itzel and Enidri staring at each other but from a different angle. It was a sideways perspective that was being depicted; both combatants stood on opposite ends of the screen with Enidri occupying the left and Itzel on the right. Each side had an assortment of bars and meters accompanied by portraits of the respective fighters. Towards the top center was the number “100” in bright yellow letters.”
“Rumble!” Gurk said with a hint of nervousness.
“Rumble? So, it’s like some kind of duel?”
Gurk nodded and pointed at the screen, instructing Janus to stay focused. He took note that the time had started to count down. Both fighters made their first move; Enidri dashed forward, covering the distance of a table with forward hop, keeping her weapon low and by her side while doing so. Itzel took a step back and lowered one fist in preparation for an uppercut.
Itzel threw a wind projectile. With the way the screen was positioned relative to the battle, he was able to view the attack from both behind and the side. The shape of the move lived up to its name; the projectile was sharp and jagged as it soared through the air towards Enidri. The swordswoman quickly held her blade in front of her face and let the attack collide with the edge of her weapon. The Gale dissipated upon contact, sending a rush of wind in its wake. Enidri remained unaffected save for her hair flowing back.
Despite her attack having been deflected, Itzel remained focused. She took another step back and launched one more Serrated Gale. This time, however, her opponent was ready. Enidri leapt high into the air, easily clearing the height of the Serrated Gale by a few feet. At the peak of her jump, Janus watched in awe as the woman launched herself on nothing, propelling her entire body towards Itzel. As she fell, Enidri swung her weapon in a low arc, grazing the edge of Itzel’s hand by a slim margin as she raised both of her arms to defend herself.
“How did she do that?” Janus said while pointing at Enidri. “How did she jump in the air?”
“Just can,” Gurk grumbled.