Chapter 22: The Arena Part3; Civil Raze
The words missed her comprehension, but she was still able to process other noises; the familiar sound of practice weapons hitting each other. Chloe hadn’t lost consciousness, but she had allowed herself to rest. Right there, on the grass beside the arena. She felt around and noticed that her right hand was no longer holding a weapon.
“Oh hey, you’re alive!”
“We saw the end of your fight! Good job! I didn’t know you were that skilled!”
Chloe blinked and rolled over. It was Finch and Alice—and also Senica. Chloe sat up and blinked again. “Who is fighting now? How long has it been going on?”
“I think Alexandre is the last one. They’ve reached eight,” Finch said. “My cousin is really good in a fight, it seems. I guess we know why…” He sighed.
“Good to see that you’re okay though,” Senica said. “That Lilllith, it seems, can just go on fighting forever.”
Chloe pulled her knees into her chest. “You can see she is getting tired, but, she could probably test a few more people if she had to.”
“She’s really dangerous,” said Alice.
Chloe watched Alexandre’s fighting was effective, but unpractised; she was very unrefined, and yet seemed to be sustaining the fight with ease. Chloe could hear Lilllith saing that they were moving to nine.
“Ah, what do you mean by dangerous?”
Senica nodded, “Yeah, look. She’s fighting at mark nine. Well think, Astore, an Agent of the King, only got to seven, right?”
Alice said, “Right. You think that your average city guard could keep up with an offensive like that?”
“Not a chance. I see exactly what you mean. This woman roams the streets, and she could probably do whatever she wanted, and then fight her way out if she needed to.”
Chloe watched the women fight, considering their words. Even at nine, she is doing fine. Though, she does seem to be wearing out a bit. Alexandre had some methodology, it seemed, but Chloe couldn’t figure out what it was exactly. The Riley seemed to avoid binding at the hilt, and her attacks were heavy and nearly always over-aggressive, which explained why she was tiring.
“She’s not that bad,” Finch said.
“Isn’t she a criminal though?” Senica said.
“In organized crime. I wasn’t involved, but it was around the time I became a guard. I know she’s your cousin, but…”
“Come on,” Finch retorted, “She’s on the other end of the system. I mean, justice has been served, right? She’s atoned, at least by that measure.”
“Ten!” Lilllith shouted with strange excitement.
“No way…” Senica’s mouth opened. “Chloe, what if she’s the strongest person in our group? What if she beats Lilllith? And then we have to travel with her!”
Alexandre was still keeping up just fine, and she was only one measure below what Lilllith proclaimed to be her own ability level. She had even adjusted; her form had tightened and she was being more careful with her aggression.
“She’s probably going to end up matching with Lilllith,” Finch said.
“You…think?” Senica replied.
Chloe looked at her sister. Natasha had been the one who had captured Alexandre years ago. She was watching intently. Chloe couldn’t tell from the distance, but it seemed like Natasha was tense. But then again, Natasha was always a little uptight.
Chloe asked, “Do you think she really is all that dangerous, Finch? You know her well, do you not? Your cousin?”
“Let’s try it at eleven then!”
“No way!” Senica stood up.
“Umm, she’s not really dangerous, just…weak.”
“Weak? Look, she now fighting at nearly the exact same level as our guest.”
“Eh, not physically, but she’s really not normal. I guess it’s because of her trademark tragic backstory maybe? Even before she was in a gang, I mean.”
“Why? What happened?” Chloe said.
“I don’t really know. I mean, you should ask her, but her father’s dead and her mother…strange…”
“Yeah. Maybe you’ll meet her some time.”
“Maybe.” Chloe stood up.
Lilllith was grinning, darting left and right as she fought, taking advantage of the nimble speed of her weapon. Whenever she saw an opening, she would throw not one, but many attacks—three or four.
“Alexandre seems to be physically stronger,” Chloe said, “How is Lilllith keeping up with her? How is she enjoying it?”
Senica’s eyes were looking at a point far beyond the fight. “The development of weapons technologies has closed the gap between the weak and the strong; between woman and man.”
“That’s a quote. Well, it’s close. It was…an ex-prostitute, Hannah Alz-Aeur, who coined it. Hence the bit about men and women.”
Chloe turned her eyes back to Alexandre. The crowd roared. People were banging on the wooden railings. Things seemed strange.
“You’re very good but you’re oh-so lacking in training and skill!” Lilllith shouted. “I didn’t expect someone so strong to be in the Solune party. And; are you not an academic? Do you train your body? You must.” Alexandre said nothing. She was getting tired. “Very well. Why don’t we finish. You look like you are getting worn out.”
Lilllith laughed, and then stepped to the side, swinging in with cut-thrust. The attack was fast and had good range. Alexandre blocked it. Might as well… She began focusing on her breathing, and on her veins. She was interrupted when Lilllith unexpectedly followed up, cutting across from the other side. Alexandre pulled her arm across, slamming the blunted weapon into Lilllith’s. Breathe in. Suddenly, Lilllith was right there, in her face, eyes wide with excitement. Too close! Alexandre lost her focus and then received two blows to the face, then one to the breast.
“Ah, bitch.” Alex opened her arms, shoving Lilllith aside, and then nearly hitting the woman as she retreated. She tried again. One and two and… They circled each other predatorily. …three and four and… She shut her eyes tight. Lilllith lunged at the opportunity, and then— Alexandre Dirge’s hair burst hot white. She tore at Lilllith’s weapon with her won, and leapt forward, left hand out, grappling the woman by the neck and choking her to the ground. They landed with Alexandre mounted, hand around neck, training sword at her opponent’s face.
“Stop.” Natasha called.
…six and… Alexandre blacked out and fell on of Lilllith.