Chapter 21: The Arena Part2; The Prince
“Done!” Natasha shouted. Lilllith and Senica’s duel ended.
Lilllith said, “You’re trained in unarmed fighting. I should have known, you look like you’re from the Djeb.”
“I…” Senica was out of breath.
“You’re fairly skilled, but you lack strength. This we can fix. You could likely challenge a small group of untrained opponents. For a rank, I’ll give you a three…”
“…and one half.”
Senica returned to the bench amid non-committal clapping. She was a little perturbed but Kent reassured her.
“Look at that, you did pretty good!”
“I just barely made it,” she said. “I wish I knew what her scale was based off of. Is it just an arbitrary number? Pass three? Is it out of ten, or what? Frustrating.”
Natasha called Chloe to go next, but then Kent stood and called out to Lilllith, asking what her numbers were measured against, and if they were simply arbitrary.
“Of course they are not arbitrary!” Lilllith shouted back. She moved closer and announced, not just for the fighters, but also for the audience. “I developed this system with good thinking and philosophy! One is what I would consider to be the average untrained individual. If you fall below average, then you’re not worth measuring on my scale. Eleven and one tenth is the highest I can judge accurately—it is my ability level.” She lowered her voice, addressing Chloe’s group. “It matches with my name.” This last comment confused most of them. The announcement ended and Lilllith returned to the centre of the ring.
Chloe took a sword from Natasha and considered it.
“Ah…” Chloe nervously left her and entered the ring. I do not use weapons like this…
Chloe’s duel began fast. She opened with an upward cut into a held defensive stance. Lilllith retaliated, aiming underneath her guard.
Chloe kept up with Lilllith easily. She was used to this. The entire royal family had offensive training as an obvious basic precaution, but also as part of their status as nobility. Further, Chloe’s mother, Gwenhime, had in the distant past been a warlord and she still had a combat-oriented mind. She pushed Chloe further—especially after most of her older siblings had left the castle. Aside from all that, Chloe herself also had brief military training, and then experience during the Legendary Event.
“Good, now let’s move on.” Lilllith tightened her footwork and began using unusual strike patterns and swift cut-thrusts. Chloe felt the pressure and began to falter. Eventually she realized that she was exclusively defending. What do I do….
Her mind began to work on a solution, and then— “Okay. Let’s move up again.”
“Wait?” Lilllith continued her assault. “There is no waiting in battle!”
“This,” Chloe’s mind did the work, “this is not the weapon I am best trained with. Do you not want to measure me at my best?”
Lilllith’s expression tightened. She said, “Fight!”
The duel sped up further. Chloe struggled to keep up. Stay in control. Take a step back and reorient yourself. Chloe exhaled, and took a step back, recovering for a moment. Then, she reengaged. She kept her breathing in rhythm and cut across, nearly hitting Lilllith’s shoulder. The assault continued until Lilllith, instead of blocking, hit Chloe’s weapon aside and sped up another mark.
“Let’s take it up to measure eight!”
“Eight!” So I passed Kent. I passed Astore too, and he is an experienced Solune Agent…
Again, Chloe was put entirely on defensive. They binded at the hilts, and Lilllith smiled at her. She pushed her weapon forward, and tilted it. The weapon flicked down and struck Chloe in the neck. There was screaming, and Chloe’s muscles locked. She looked around at the crowd, cheering with excitement.
“Done! That would have been grievous in a real fight.”
“Eight.” Lilllith said. Then she called to Natasha, “have her go again with her other weapon.”
The crowd screamed at this too.
“Fine.” Natasha said.
Chloe, worked from the fight and a little dazzled by the cheering that surrounded her, took a moment to recover, and then exited the ring to meet with her sister. Natasha noticed her nerves, but said nothing about it.
“Eight,” Natasha said under her breath, “you passed Astore.” She handed Chloe the training sword that Kent had used.
“I know…” Chloe took the weapon.
“Do you think you can get much higher than this?”
“Maybe. Father always preferred this sort of weapon, and it is what I was trained with. I like it, the two handed sword. It feels more comfortable in my hands.”
Natasha returned to her regular speaking level. “You know those are not good in duels.”
“Well…I did what I could with the arming sword. We will see.”
“It is made for warfare. It is a backline weapon. It can also be used to defend a key point against groups.”
“…I know that, I think. Anyway, I will try it. Ah, she asked, right?”
Chloe returned to the right and gripped her sword forwards, with the handle near her side.
“The crowd must stay quiet during the duels. Hold your reactions for the end. We need not disrupt an examination in the name of excitement.” Natasha called. She shared a look with her father, who was seated in the crowd. He nodded to her. “You two can start again.”
For the first time, Lilllith initiated the duel. Chloe raised her weapon to block.
She liked the large sword because it was easier to defend with. She could take time and think. It seems we are back to seven. Chloe hit back, a heavy downward strike. Lilllith blocked it uncomfortably.
“Good. You’re very tall, this is a good weapon for you.” Let’s move back to eight.”
The fight continued. This time, Chloe was able to keep up to Lilllith’s speed with a lot less effort. Any twist of the hand or shift of the hilt mapped to much larger movements at the tip. Even though Chloe was unaccustomed to Lilllith’s fighting style, as long as she could see (and in some cases even hear) the attack coming, she could manoeuvre in time to block.
This is good. I have time to look for an opening in her form. Chloe waited, as she blocked, for such an opening, but none came. Lilllith’s positioning kept her fairly protected. I will have to make my own opening. Chloe blocked an attack from below, and taking advantage of her heavier practice sword and stature, she pushed down on Lilllith’s fencing rod. She almost hit the woman’s shoulder, but Lilllith just stepped aside.
“Good,” Lilllith said. “You were close. Let’s move to the ninth measure.”
Lilllith moved only a little faster, but her attacks became more decisive. Chloe had to spend more of her attention coordinating her blocking. Her defensive advantages were still enough for her to hold Lilllith off, but she wasn’t sure if she would be able to coordinate a counterattack. She has far better endurance than me. At this rate, I will simply lose to exhaustion. What can I do…I… Lilllith took advantage of her momentary lapse into thought and stepped closer; too close for Chloe to use her two-handed sword properly. She cut in.
Chloe let her intuition take over, the years of training in her youth. Chloe pulled her hilt in toward her chest and tilted the sword so that the blade was vertical. It had been a while since she had trained at full intensity, but her rusty reactions were fast enough here. Lilllith’s strike hit her sword.
Now step out of the way and use the momentum of your sword.
Chloe moved, letting her weapon continue twisting back behind her, and then, with a snap, she struck Lilllith in the chest with her pommel
Lilllith stopped for only a moment before recovering and then preparing herself for a downward attack that never came.
“Continue…” Natasha briefly considered her sister and then added, “A good strike, but most opponents would be able to continue after such a hit.”
Lilllith nodded. “You should have followed up while I was recovering. I could easily hit you now; your blade is over your should behind you, and your weapon is heavy.”
Chloe looked up. The sun beat down on her. She was burning, particularly with the heat and exertion, but also from embarrassment. It looks like there are only a few more hours of day.
Natasha called, “Any time you want,” and Chloe stepped out of her daze. She readied herself, pointing her sword forward again.
“Is everyone on this side of the planet so inattentive to battle?” Lilllith said.
“This nation has not seen war—real war—in many ages. There was the Legendary Event only last year but—”
Chloe instinctively pulled her arm up, catching Lilllith’s strike near her guard.
“Come, I we aren’t here for a history of this land, just for you to ready yourself!” Lilllith smiled. In a bind such as theirs, her smaller weapon had certain advantages. Chloe’s two-handed sword was cumbersome, and her arms had been pushed into an awkward position. Lilllith had more control; she could push Chloe’s weapon wherever she wanted. Lilllith pushed the tip of her opponent’s sword into the ground and then planted her left thumb onto Chloe’s neck.
“If I had my dagger, you would be in trouble. Times like this, you can remove a hand from your weapon to defend yourself.”
Chloe stepped back and pulled her sword up, hitting Lilllith with a weak strike to the side of the chest.
“But you do not have a dagger.”
Chloe struck sideways and diagonally. Lilllith responded accordingly. Their duel returned to its previous speed. This time, Chloe was actively looking for openings. She found a few as the fight went on, but Lilllith expertly defended herself. They seemed evenly matched, and then Lilllith said, “Good, let’s try it at ten.”
The Lussa stepped back and took the strange overhand pose she had used against Astore: her arm out in front of her head, with her fist up and the sword’s tip lower in front of her. Chloe cut downward and Lilllith pushed it to the side, then went for a thrust. Chloe blocked with the close and of her blade. Hmm. It seems she can attack faster from that position.
Lilllith returned to her pose. “Come—” Chloe interrupted with another attack, and Lilllith repeated the parry and follow-up. Chloe blocked again but Lilllith, instead of withdrawing, pulled her weapon in and thrusted again. Chloe’s body reacted, pushing her sword forward to intercept. She took advantage of the reaction, and in one movement continued the blocking movement into a thrust of her own. Lilllith snapped backward out of the way. “Good. Efficient.”
Chloe followed up. She had a range advantage from this distance, and she was getting tired, both of the battle and physically. Chloe thrust forward, while pulling her weapon upward. The attack was a little clumsy, and Lilllith took advantage, pushing the weapon aside with her off hand and stepping inward to a more advantageous range. No. Chloe let her weapon be pushed, then tilted her hilt to block, and then pulled the rest of her weapon in to catch Lilllith while she was still close. Then, Lilllith dropped to the ground. “Good.”
“Wha—” Chloe’s weapon finished its swing, right over Lilllith’s head, and then she realized that there was a sword at her neck. “Ah…” She exhaled. Her breathing heaved. Her sword was heavy. She felt dazed. She slowly walked out of the ring, and then promptly fell on her face.